WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a $40 million-budget increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) as part of the fiscal 2009 omnibus appropriations bill.

The 11 percent increase would bring funding for the LSC to a total of $390 million. The agency said most of the funding, $365.8 million, would be awarded as competitive grants to 137 nonprofit legal aid programs across the nation.

In endorsing the increase, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees LSC, said, “We know that the poor are hit hard during economic downturns, and this funding will help more low-income Americans faced with unlawful evictions, domestic violence and other serious legal problems.”

LSC President Helaine M. Barnett said the additional $40 million would allow legal aid programs throughout the country to serve the most vulnerable at a time when they are at risk of losing their jobs, health care and shelter. The additional funding, she added, also wouldl strengthen oversight of grants.

The House budget bill includes funding for technology grants that expand access to legal information, for a loan repayment program that helps new lawyers burdened with education-related debt, and for increased oversight of legal assistance grants.

The omnibus bill bundles appropriations for nine out of 12 spending bills set to expire on March 6. The Senate is expected to pick up the legislation the first week of March.