Topeka, Kan. — The Kansas Bar Foundation (KBF) is pleased to welcome CoreFirst Bank & Trust as the founding member of the new “Partners in Justice” program. This honor roll program is designed to provide banks an opportunity to pay supportive interest rates on “Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA).” Interest on IOLTA accounts is collected by the KBF and awarded through a granting process to organizations that support access to justice for low-income Kansans. Banks are also asked to agree to waive fees, so even more funding can be generated to support these programs.
In fact, most banks throughout the U.S. routinely waive fees on IOLTA accounts in support of IOLTA’s charitable purpose. Partners in Justice banks go one step further by agreeing to pay at least 70% of the maximum value of the Federal Funds Target Rate range (with a minimum of 0.7%) on all IOLTA deposits. The amount of IOLTA grant funds available depends on interest rates paid on the accounts. When rates drop and stay low, as they have from the beginning of 2008 to 2017, IOLTA funding declines. Many IOLTA programs throughout the country have been forced to reduce grants to legal aid providers, in many cases by large percentages. Partners in Justice banks will help address this shortfall in Kansas.
The banking community benefits, because they place a high emphasis on reinvesting in communities. It is a win-win formula that benefits low-income Kansans.
“CoreFirst Bank & Trust has participated in the IOLTA program since 1985. We proudly support the Kansas Bar Foundation’s mission of awarding grants to organizations that provide justice and legal education. The Partners in Justice program gives us the ability to provide extra funding so families in need can get the judicial access and support they deserve and don’t always receive,” stated Kurt Kuta, President & CEO, CoreFirst Bank & Trust.
From the attorney’s perspective, participating in IOLTA is easy: The attorney completes one form and the rest is handled by the KBF and financial institutions in the IOLTA program. The KBF works with each bank to collect to IOLTA interest. At the end of the year, a grant committee, with members from the legal community, the Court, government, and the banking profession, determines the next year’s grant recipients.
“The IOLTA program promotes access to legal services to various underserved groups for whom necessary legal services are not readily available. The Kansas Bar Foundation values the commitment to IOLTA made by CoreFirst, our very first Partner in Justice,” explained Susan G. Saidian, KBF Secretary-Treasurer and past chair of the KBF IOLTA Committee.
Mickey Edwards, State Director of Kansas CASA, stated that the timing of this partnership comes at a time of growing needs for children in the court system.
“Kansas' child welfare system is experiencing the highest numbers of children in foster care in its history. With an overburdened foster care system, children don't always get the attention they need. Now more than ever, CASA volunteers are in great need in advocating for children in foster care. With the support of the Kansas Bar Foundation's IOLTA grant, local programs have a resource to assist them in supporting the volunteers doing this essential work for Kansas' most vulnerable citizens: abused and neglected children. When attorneys and bankers work together and support their communities through the IOLTA program, Kansas' kids win!”
The Partners in Justice program is available for all Kansas financial institutions in the IOLTA program. CoreFirst Bank & Trust has been a long-term financial partner with the KBF and is well suited to launch this program.
“The Kansas Bar Foundation is proud to help fund some of the otherwise unmet legal needs that occur each year across Kansas,” stated Scott M. Hill, IOLTA Committee Chair, who has been instrumental in developing the Partners in Justice program. “With the efforts of our banking partners such as CoreFirst which has accepted the challenge to serve as the Foundation’s first Partner in Justice, we will be able to make a much more sizeable difference in the years to come.”
Since 1984, when the Kansas Supreme Court established the IOLTA program in Kansas, over four million dollars have gone to support civil legal aid programs. To learn more about the program, see a list of grant recipients or learn how you can participate as an attorney or banker, visit www.ksbar.org/iolta