Central Bank Becomes A Prime Partner Bank, Boosts Legal Aid Funding In Texas

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 01:00

Central Bank of Houston is the newest member of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation's Prime Partner Bank program. Prime Partner banks voluntarily pay higher interest rates on Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA). The Texas Access to Justice Foundation receives a large portion of its funding from IOLTA accounts and uses this money for grants to legal aid providers in the state that help more than 100,000 Texas families each year.

Prime Partner banks, which currently pay one percent on IOLTA accounts, have a direct impact on the amount of money available to help low-income Texans with their civil legal issues. Nearly 5.3 million Texans qualify for legal aid and the increasing civil legal needs of the poor continue to outpace the funding available for civil legal services. Legal aid offices assist in matters dealing with family, housing, employment and consumer law, and those recovering from the effects of natural disasters.

"By making the choice to pay higher interest rates on IOLTA accounts, Central Bank and our other Prime Partner Banks help ensure that low-income Texans will have access to basic civil legal services," Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said. "During these economic times, many Texans are facing serious challenges, such as foreclosures or domestic violence situations, and simply do not have the funds to hire an attorney."

"At Central Bank, we are committed to serving and helping our local communities," Kim Wheless, president and chief executive officer, said. "We are proud to become a Prime Partner and hope that the additional funds generated will make a significant difference in the lives of low-income Texans in need of civil legal services."

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation has seen a 73 percent decline in IOLTA revenue since 2007 due to the impact of low interest rates. Prime Partners, such as Central Bank, help to mitigate the decline in revenue available to fund legal aid.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the leading state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texans each year.