An agency that helps Alaskans navigate the legal system is facing state budget cuts that it says will force them to turn more people away.

Alaska Legal Services Corporation is a nonprofit law firm providing free civil legal aid to low-income individuals, and executive director Nikole Nelson says a cut of nearly $800,000 is more than 10% of the nonprofit's budget, which is already stretched thin. "The cuts across the board are targeting those who have literally nothing," she said.

Last year the agency served nearly 8,000 people at about a dozen offices across the state. Nelson said the cuts will force the organization to turn away an additional 1,363 people including seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and victims of crime and domestic violence.

Nelson said the cuts will hit victims of domestic violence particularly hard. The agency helps them file for protective orders and custody of their children. Even now, she says, there aren't enough funds to help them all.

"It's already incredibly challenging for us when we have to turn away one victim of domestic violence for every one that we accept, knowing that they are facing very dangerous circumstances," she said.

Nelson said last year the agency provided legal aid to 787 victims of domestic violence and, if the vetoes stand, the agency expects to turn away an additional 319 victims this year.

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