Skip to main content

Selected Federal Funding Opportunities for Public Defense Providers

Below is an overview of select federal funding opportunities available to state, local, and Tribal public defense providers. It is designed to assist public defense providers in accessing federal funding resources that can support their crucial role in the justice system and service to their communities. This page highlights select funding opportunities, eligibility criteria, and key deadlines, and complements other Department of Justice resources including the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Indigent Defense Projects and Program Fact Sheet.

These funding opportunities can be used to enhance the capacity of public defense professionals to provide effective multidisciplinary criminal defense representation; better serve specific communities, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty or lack of access; and, where applicable, to also provide legal representation for non-criminal matters.

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) delivered $350 billion to state, territorial, local, and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency. SLFRF funds have been directly distributed by the Treasury Department to eligible state, local, and Tribal governments and must be obligated by December 31, 2024, and spent by December 31, 2026.

Funding is flexible and can be used to respond to the myriad of negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public defenders can utilize these funds to support direct legal services to prevent eviction and homelessness or to resource jurisdiction specific indigent defense programs that address issues arising from the pandemic (e.g. court backlogs).

Public defenders can utilize the Treasury Department’s SLFRF public data portal to assess the availability of SLFRF funds in their jurisdiction.

  • In Clark County, Washington, funds are being used to establish a full-time public defense office, a transition from the existing contract model of indigent defense.
  • In Texas, funds were used to develop new public defender offices in Brazos and Nueces counties and to expand the Concho Valley Public Defenders Office services to five additional rural counties.
  • In New Hampshire, funds were provided to the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law to develop a criminal defense academy for the training and mentoring of new contract indigent defense counsel.

More Information

Title IV-E of the Social Security Act authorizes several programs to assist eligible children served through the child welfare system. One of these is the title IV-E Foster Care program which is awarded as an open-end entitlement grant provided directly to IV-E agencies (i.e., the state or Tribal child welfare agency that operates the IV-E program). Through title IV-E programs, child welfare agencies receive federal reimbursement for a percentage of allowable expenditures.

In 2019, the Children’s Bureau revised policy to allow title IV-E agencies to claim reimbursement under the title IV-E foster care program for the costs of independent legal representation provided by an attorney to children and the parents of children who are in, or who are candidates for, IV-E foster care. These costs are considered as administrative costs under the title IV-E foster care program and are reimbursed at a 50% match rate. Recognizing the value of quality multidisciplinary legal representation for children and parents, reimbursable costs include the costs of attorneys, as well as paralegals, office support staff, social workers, peer advocates to the extent that they are necessary to support a child or parents’ attorney in providing legal representation to prepare for and participate in foster care legal proceedings. 

Title IV-E agencies may also claim allowable costs at a 75% match rate to provide short-term training to attorneys who represent eligible children and the parents of children who are in, or who are candidates for title IV-E foster care.

While only title IV-E agencies may access title IV-E funding, title IV-E agencies often contract out title IV-E administrative functions such as legal representation to other private or public agencies through a contract or other type of agreement. Public defenders and Tribal defenders who are interested in accessing title IV-E funds should contact their IV-E agency and their Court Improvement Program (CIP) director.  

  • In Washington, the Washington Office of Public Defense has used title IV-E funds to resource high-quality multidisciplinary legal representation for parents and children.
  • In Montana, the Office of State Public Defender has used title IV-E funds to resource high quality multidisciplinary legal representation for parents and children.
  • In Maryland, the Office of the State Public Defender’s Parental Defense Division is using title IV-E funds to staff a multidisciplinary team of social workers, parent advocates, paralegals, and attorneys to represent parents and legal guardians through all stages of child welfare proceedings.

More Information

The Byrne State Crisis Intervention (SCIP) program provided $257.7 million in formula funds* to states and territories to implement state crisis intervention court proceedings and related programs and initiatives. States and territories that receive Byrne SCIP funds must form a diverse Crisis Intervention Advisory Board comprised of representatives from law enforcement, the community, courts, prosecution, behavioral health providers, victim services, and legal counsel to inform and guide the implementation of Byrne SCIP funding. Public defense professionals are eligible to serve on Crisis Intervention Advisory Boards.

Public defenders are also eligible to receive subawards under Byrne SCIP from their state or territory. Subawards to public defenders can be used in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, providing legal representation for persons subject to extreme risk protection order (ERPO) programs or who participate in mental health courts, drug courts, and Veterans treatment courts, including those who accept clients with firearms violations; implement navigation programs that assess the risks and needs of clients and connect them with critical services to mitigate their risk of gun violence; or to conduct trainings. Public defenders interested in receiving Byrne SCIP subawards should contact the Crisis Intervention Advisory Board in their jurisdiction.

*Formula funds, also called “pass-through funds” or “block grants,” have funding amounts and spending parameters that are set by federal law and agencies, but recipients (states, territories, localities, or Tribal governments) have the flexibility to tailor spending to local priorities within those federal constraints. To access formula funds, applicants generally apply to the administering state and/or local government agencies or their grantees.

More Information

In addition to qualifying for many of the other grant programs listed, entities providing indigent defense services for members of federally recognized Indian Tribes may also qualify for the Department of Justice’s targeted funding resources, including the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) and the Tribal Civil and Criminal Legal Assistance Program (TCCLA).

CTAS provides federally recognized Tribes and Tribal consortia support in developing a comprehensive and coordinated approach to public safety and victimization issues. This solicitation combines the majority of the Department’s existing Tribal government-specific competitive funding opportunities under a single coordinated solicitation. Eligibility is limited to federally recognized Indian Tribal governments, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior. This includes Alaska Native Villages and Tribal consortia consisting of two or more federally recognized Tribes. Applicants may apply for funding under purpose areas that best address Tribes’ concerns related to public safety, criminal and juvenile justice, and the needs of victims/survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of violence. Under the most recent solicitation, the Tribal Justice Systems Program (Category 3) included staffing of indigent defense services as an eligible area for funding. The application period for FY24 CTAS closed on March 12, 2024. Tribal public defense organizations who are interested in CTAS funding should contact their CTAS designee.

TCCLA supports nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, federally recognized Indian Tribes, and Tribal justice systems that provide legal aid and indigent defense services to Tribal communities located in rural and remote regions throughout the United States where legal services are sparse. The most recent solicitation under the criminal category of TCCLA sought applications for funding to strengthen and improve the representation of indigent defendants in criminal cases with the ultimate goals of enhancing the operations of Tribal justice systems and improving access to those systems by Tribal members. Although the core focus of the TCCLA program is to provide direct legal assistance, funding can also support conflict counsel, responses to collateral consequences and penalties, education, planning, and implementation of existing legal authorities, such as the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2022. Tribal public defense organizations who are interested in applying for FY24 TCCLA funding should check the OJP website in the summer of 2024 for additional information.

More Information

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program seeks to fund collaborative programs that reduce criminal justice involvement and improve outcomes for individuals with mental health disorders (MHDs) or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders (MHSUDs). Public defenders and Tribal defenders are eligible entities for this award, but BJA will accept applications only for proposed programs that will be administered jointly by the criminal agency (e.g., the public defender) and a mental health agency. Public defenders can utilize this funding to support a range of programs including but not limited to building or expanding existing justice and mental health collaborative programs; supporting navigators, case managers, or court liaison programs that connect individuals living with MHDs and MHSUDs with programs and services; increasing defender-led diversion strategies; or creating or expanding specialized legal services for clients who prequalify for specialized mental health courts. This solicitation closes on May 14, 2024.

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) will provide priority consideration when making an award to projects that are designed to meaningfully advance equity and remove barriers to accessing services and opportunities for communities that have been historically underserved, marginalized, adversely affected by inequality, and disproportionately impacted by crime, violence, and victimization. Public defenders must describe how their proposed project(s) will address the identified inequities and contribute to greater access to services and opportunities for those communities to receive this consideration.

More Information

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides grants to both public and non-profit organizations that provide legal services to Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. This funding can be utilized by public defenders and Tribal defenders to provide a range of legal services including but not limited to criminal defense in matters symptomatic of homelessness, eviction defense, access to healthcare and public benefits, and family law for Veterans who are confronting housing instability. Criminal defense services include but are not limited to providing legal representation to Veterans eligible for diversion and specialized treatment courts or for criminal record clearing.

In FY23, the VA awarded $11.5 million in legal service grants to 79 organizations that helped Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness with their legal needs. The application period for FY24 LSV-H grants closed on February 23, 2024. Public defenders and Tribal defenders interested in applying for FY2025 LSV-H grants should check the VA website frequently for possible funding opportunities.

More Information

Updated April 2, 2024