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(WBIR) During the government shutdown, non-profit groups that rely on federal funding are also seeing an impact.

Legal Aid of East Tennessee is a non-profit group that helps East Tennesseans, with low-incomes, defend themselves in civil cases for free. Each year, they help more than 7,000 people in our area.

"We tell the whole world that we have a constitution that we have equal justice, that no one suffers in America because they don't have a lawyer to protect themselves and yet it's not true," said Executive Director Dave Yoder.

But, lately Legal Aid has been in need of some assistance too. The economy's made it harder for them to serve East Tennesseans in need.

"The poverty population has increased dramatically and our resources have decreased," Yoder said. "We rely heavily on federal funding, legal services corporation, Department of Justice, Housing and Urban Development."

He said since 2010, the group has lost more than $1.3 million in funding. It can only help 10 percent of the need in East Tennessee communities.

More Information: Legal Aid of East Tennessee website

"You just keeping making a difference everywhere you can," Yoder said.

One person it did help was Knoxville resident Claire Fitzgeorge. Her troubles started earlier this summer when she got a surprise credit report.

"Last December, I run it and I see I had a credit card bill for $400, which I knew nothing about," Fitzgeorge said.

Then, in May, a man came to her door to tell her she was being sued over unpaid debts. Fitzgeorge said it was money she simply didn't owe. She said her old landlord stole her credit card.

"It was a duplex and she had all my information from a rental application," Fitzgeorge said.

So, she turned to Legal Aid, which just a few months later, successfully defended her case.

Now, it's important to note Legal Aid is not like what you may see on a program like Law and Order SVU. The legal system in New York City, where that show is based, is very different. Here, in East Tennessee, Legal Aid does not focus on criminal cases.

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