Walk-in intake resumed on July 27 at each of MLA’s 12 statewide offices on a limited basis. Individuals seeking in-person legal assistance are welcome.
All staff, clients, and other persons entering MLA offices/buildings are to comply with the following:
- Complete a brief health assessment form and have your temperature taken for entry to MLA offices/buildings.
- Wear a mask/face covering that covers the mouth and nose when entering and when traveling throughout MLA offices/buildings.
- Maintain six feet of social distancing at all times during in-person meetings/interviews (furniture in lobbies and meeting rooms have been arranged to ensure six feet of social distancing).
- Refrain from giving/receiving handshakes.
In addition to the standard health and safety protocols listed above, clients and visitors should be aware that each MLA office may implement additional measures of protection.
MLA’s Response to COVID-19
In mid-March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLA closed its offices to the public. While most staff worked from home, there was a core group of staff in each office to maintain basic operations and service delivery. Potential clients could access MLA’s services through telephone and online intake. In July 2020, MLA re-opened its doors to staff and walk-in clients in accordance with the State’s Re-Opening Plan and that of the Maryland Judiciary.
In preparation for the re-opening, MLA formed a committee composed of employees representing different MLA offices, job functions, and areas of operations (e.g., client service delivery, office management, technology, facilities, communications, and human resources). Over a period of two months, the committee engaged in intense research and deliberations, and ultimately drafted guidelines for each manager/chief attorney to create plans and staff schedules to safely re-open MLA units/offices to staff, clients, and visitors on a limited basis.
The Committee’s work included consultations with experts from Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH), Maryland’s medical health system, and other legal services providers, to learn about current safety standards and protocols and how those measures could be effectively implemented at MLA. Their guidance, and that of others, as well as recommendations from the CDC, helped MLA devise guidelines to effectively and safely continue its in-person operations and service delivery.
MLA’s Re-Opening guidelines provide managers with guidance on how to best schedule staff in their offices/units to: 1) provide the highest level of service possible to clients; 2) limit exposure of COVID-19 in MLA offices/units by enabling proper social distancing with a limited number of staff and clients in each office/unit; 3) provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and 4) have all staff eventually return to offices and in-person client interactions in an equitable and fair manner.
MLA’s Re-Opening guidelines also include guidance and instruction on requesting PPE for employees, social distancing, and when to sanitize equipment and client/advocate meeting areas in between daily janitorial service. In addition, the guidelines provide important information related to MLA’s compliance with all applicable federal and state laws that provide employees with leave benefits and/or reasonable accommodations under the ADA, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or similar state laws.
Throughout MLA’s re-opening process, staff are encouraged to submit their questions and concerns to a special email inbox where MLA’s Re-Opening Committee reviews submissions and responds directly to the individuals. The questions and answers are also posted to MLA’s Re-Opening FAQ site for review by all staff.
MLA will continue to monitor and evaluate the current health situation, and, as needed, revise its Re-Opening guidelines with updated guidance for staff, clients, and visitors.
For more information and resources, visit MLA’s COVID-19 Legal Resources & Information page.