Summer 2021 Newsletter
2021 Summer newsletter
While this may be yet another unusual summer, at GBLS there are some things that remain constant. To begin with, GBLS has enjoyed having 53 student volunteers and interns onboard over the summer, helping virtually in every one of our practice areas. The level of dedication and enthusiasm that these future legal leaders have displayed is impressive, to say the least.
And our staff has been hard at work this summer, too; busy with everything from eviction defense cases to working on statewide campaigns to promote and educate people about the Child Tax Credit and other income relief resources for struggling households. In these difficult and stressful times, we also believe that it is important to the wellbeing of our staff to encourage that they take the time to enjoy the summer as well.
We hope to be able to safely welcome people back to our offices later this fall and to keep working together to achieve justice in our community. Thank you for being part of these efforts!
From Our Own Voices – A Report on the State of the MA Nail Salon Industry
GBLS’ Asian Outreach team, in collaboration with community partners VietAID, recently released a groundbreaking new report on the state of the nail salon industry in Massachusetts. Through interviews with nail salon workers conducted from 2016-2020 and surveys of workers and salon owners through the pandemic, the “From Our Own Voices” report is a part of effort to support predominantly Vietnamese nail salon workers in addressing challenges within the industry.
Kim Lan has worked in the nail salon industry for over 10 years. She likes doing nails because she sees herself as an artist. But Kim Lan has thought about leaving the industry multiple times, but her husband has been unable to find stable employment, so her earnings support the entire family. Kim Lan works as a part-time nail salon worker on an hourly wage basis for as many hours as she can and receives partial unemployment benefits. But these earnings are not enough to support the entire family. Kim Lan lives in Dorchester with her husband and children. Kim Lan likes Dorchester because the closest Vietnamese grocery stores are only a 5-minute walk away. But like many other residents, Kim Lan feels the heavy impact of gentrification on the neighborhood. Kim Lan pays $1,400 a month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment and owes $700 in back rent from a previous apartment, which she cannot pay because of the loss of hours and income during COVID-19. Although Kim Lan receives benefits, she’s only making enough to put food on the table, not enough to suffice as the primary income for the household in a neighborhood that increasingly gets more expensive.
The need for a sustainable industry was never more apparent than in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Massachusetts nail salons to undergo a shutdown, a slowdown in business, and multiple alterations to the setup of the nail salon. Workers and owners faced difficulties accessing relief and benefits, supporting their families, and receiving information in their native language. As the industry continues to face challenges during the pandemic, GBLS and VietAID hope that this report can provide useful recommendations for supporting all nail salon staff and sustaining local nail salons in the long term. You can read the full report here.
Sen. Markey Joins Webinar on Accessing Credits Under the American Rescue Plan
Senator Ed Markey joined GBLS managing attorney Melanie Malherbe and other community advocates to share information about how to help traditional tax non-filers access payments and tax credits designed to benefit families under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Importantly, this includes the expanded Child Tax Credit, which increases the amount of the Child Tax Credit to eligible families and is fully refundable under the ARPA.
In the webinar, advocates discussed how to increase awareness of eligibility and access to payments due to people who do not traditionally file taxes, using the website findyourfunds.org. The webinar covered credits/payments that non-filers may be eligible for, outreach strategies, and how to connect clients with free tax preparation services. The entire webinar is available here.
“Family is the first community we know” – A talk with Family Law Unit Managing Attorney Laura Gal
GBLS: Hi, Laura! Please introduce yourself: What is your name and your role at GBLS, how long have you been here, and what is your professional background?
Laura Gal: Hello! In March 2021, I joined GBLS as the managing attorney for the family law unit. Immediately before to joining GBLS, I was the supervising attorney for the family law unit at Northeast Legal Aid for two years, and prior to that I was a staff attorney in the family law unit at Community Legal Aid. Way back when, in the summer of 1994, I interned at GBLS as a law student. It’s wonderful to have found my way back to GBLS and to be working with a terrific and diverse group of family law advocates.
GBLS: What led you to practice family law?
LG: What led me to family law is good mentorship, starting at GBLS, and luck. I did not go to law school to learn about family law. [However,] working in a soup kitchen during law school and interning at GBLS showed me that I really like meeting people and hearing about their lives and, when I can, helping to make them better. At the time, medical-legal partnerships were just starting and my supervisor at GBLS introduced me to the director of the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) at Boston City Hospital (as it was called then). That’s where I got my start in family law and, since the FAP didn’t have an experienced family law specialist, [GBLS’ now-Executive Director] Jacqui Bowman offered to provide off-site supervision and mentorship for me!
GBLS: Why is your work important?
LG: Family is the first community we know and the one that most of us rely on most. A family can exist in many forms and can change over time. I want to help people achieve and maintain the family constellation that is best for them and their children. I want people to feel safe and supported in their families.
GBLS: How has COVID affected your work and your clients?
LG: COVID has increased risk for our clients and their children: risk of domestic abuse, risk to mental and physical health, risk of economic insecurity, risk of lost learning. COVID increased the responsibilities of many of our clients and also complicated access to resources. For us, COVID has meant developing new ways to communicate with our clients, which we have done successfully.
Nonetheless, I think that there is something about in-person interaction that sustains us all, and I think the loss of that over the past year and a half has made the work that we do more difficult. Additionally, it would be hard to overstate the burden of the added administrative steps needed to advance cases during the pandemic. On the client side, everything takes longer when done remotely. It takes longer to develop trust, to exchange and review documents, to work with an interpreter, and so on. On the court side, filing pleadings and scheduling court events usually requires multiple attempts by more than one mode of delivery.
Without comparing the burdens of our work to the burdens faced by our clients, I think it is very important to acknowledge the marathon that our attorneys and advocates have been running. GBLS has taken concrete steps to recognize and ameliorate the impact of these added challenges during the pandemic, which is very important to the long-term health of our organization. Nonetheless, I think we will all feel a significant lift when we are able to return to more in-person work.
GBLS: What are your hobbies outside of work?
LG: Outside of work, I love to walk, hike, and play tennis. I have a cutting garden (flowers) and we have raspberries, blueberries, and pears. When the fruits are in season, I bake a lot of desserts, and all year round I love to prepare and enjoy big meals with family and friends.
GBLS: Thank you, Laura, for your leadership of GBLS’ Family Law team!
Impressive Results in the 2021 Associates Fund Drive
GBLS’ 2021 Associates Drive was the most successful one ever! Over the course of just a couple of months this summer, dedicated associates from 46 Boston-area law firms raised funds to support GBLS’ work for survivors of domestic violence. Thank you so much to the associates who went above and beyond for this important cause, especially the Drive Co-Chairs and Captains, and thank you to the partners, counsel, and staff who supported the associates and GBLS by donating to the Drive!
In Memoriam: Connie Rossetti
Greater Boston Legal Services mourns the recent passing of our friend and colleague Connie Rossetti, longtime paralegal and client advocate. Connie spent more than 40 years of her career at GBLS, first as a secretary in our Family Law Unit, then as a paralegal, and finally as a senior paralegal in the Consumer Rights Unit. Connie was an important part of that team, particularly in the Lawyer for the Day Program.
Connie will be greatly missed, and we at GBLS remember her as a kind and caring colleague, committed to her work and devoted to GBLS’ clients.
Save the Date – GBLS' Annual Meeting
Join GBLS insiders, staff, and board members on Wednesday, September 22nd, for a virtual Annual Meeting. Hear about GBLS’ remarkable accomplishments throughout the pandemic, celebrate staff and volunteer awardees, and welcome a new slate of board members. Email Audrey Pransky, Development Officer, for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greater Boston Legal Services provides free legal assistance in civil (noncriminal) matters to low-income families and individuals in the Greater Boston area, helping people access the basic necessities of life, including shelter, healthcare, and safety from abuse.
Please consider making a gift to GBLS to help make "justice for all" a reality for our most vulnerable neighbors. Thank you for supporting civil legal aid!
Follow GBLS on social media and read more about our work in the community: