Hurricane Season 2021
Resources for Advocates
Page Sections - The sections below are meant to be a guide for attorneys and other advocates assisting disaster survivors. For disaster-specific resources and information (e.g., Hurricane Ida), please visit the Active Disaster Quick Links pages on DisasterLegalAid.org.
- DisasterLegalAid.org updates for the public: Lone Star Legal Aid, in coordination with the ABA and other partners, continues to update legal help information for survivors in active disaster areas (e.g., Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana). These pages contain information and links to legal service providers in the area. If you're aware of important information that should be posted, or that we can help amplify, please email Amanda Bosley at email@example.com.
- American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Hotlines: This page includes a listing of active pro bono hotlines and other disaster resources for survivors.
- Legal aid websites with existing disaster relief information: If your state has been impacted by a natural disaster and you are looking for information you can share with disaster survivors, the websites below are great places to start. These pages have strong pre-existing sections on disaster legal assistance and most of the information is applicable on a national/federal level.
- National hotline for pandemic and disaster-related legal needs: 888-743-5749 - The ABA YLD Disaster Legal Services (DLS) program teamed up with RingCentral Inc. to launch a national hotline to connect disaster survivors with their local disaster legal help hotlines. Through the hotlines, survivors are connected by voice prompts to legal assistance in their area anywhere that DLS is implemented. If your program has decided to implement your statewide Disaster Legal Services hotline to address legal needs or COVID-19 legal issues and you're interested in adding the hotline number to the RingCentral national number, please reach out to Linda Anderson Stanley (firstname.lastname@example.org). This national number is listed on the cover letter of FEMA's decision letter to the survivor.
- Disaster Resilience Awareness Month: As part of Disaster Resilience Awareness Month (March 2021), Fellows in the Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program hosted a series of virtual trainings in partnership with various organizations, government agencies and legal services providers, to educate communities on their legal rights before, during and after a disaster and to empower attorneys to take action in their communities. These trainings covered a range of legal issues:
Fellow Robert Flores at YMCA International spoke with the South Texas Office for Refugees about disaster preparedness and recovery issues and barriers facing refugees and new arrivals. Read the recap here.
Fellow Maria Vazquez at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, along with Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative and BakerRipley, shared information on how to assist immigrant individuals in the disaster preparedness and recovery process.
- Fellow Stephanie Duke of Disability Rights Texas spoke with the National Low Income Housing Coalition about housing assistance options following a disaster. Read the recap here.
- Fellow Meghan Smolensky at Lone Star Legal Aid teamed up with AARP to share information on title clearing and how to legally protect your property and assets before a disaster hits. Read the recap here.
Fellow alum Brittanny Perrigue Gomez at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and Fellow Brianna M. Williams at Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida discuss how Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans can help people after a disaster strikes. Read the recap here.
Fellow Hannah Dyal of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid spoke with FEMA to discuss FEMA benefits available to those impacted by disasters.
Fellow alum Brittanny Perrigue Gomez and Linda Anderson Stanley , senior manager of Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program, partnered with Pro Bono Net, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program, and disaster legal aid attorneys from across the country to convene a roundtable on best practices and strategies used in responding to weather-related emergencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the recap here .
- Morrison Foerster Disaster Handbooks: MoFo has issued a series of Helping Handbooks that offer individuals and small businesses affected by disasters access to information and assistance that will help with recovery. For a list of the disaster handbooks, please click here.
- ABA Free Legal Answers: ABA Free Legal Answers is an online brief service clinic. When a disaster hits a state, the Free Legal Answers website frequently offers disaster pro bono advice to survivors.
- Disaster Preparedness:
- The Disaster Relief Project at Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. has great disaster preparation resources here. This page includes information on what to do before and after a natural disaster.
- The Center for Arkansas Legal Services has an excellent disaster assistance resource: How to Prepare for and Recover from a Disaster: A Self-Help Toolkit.
- FEMA Recoupments:
- Scams & Fraud: The Disaster Relief Project at Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc. has also updated its webpage on avoiding scams and fraud after a natural disaster. Learn more here.
The resources below may help as a refresher on FEMA-related content:
FEMA's Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide - See here for version 1.1 (updated May 2021).
- Figuring Out FEMA: Pro Bono Net, in collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and with feedback from Lone Star Legal Aid, Equal Justice Works, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Neighborhood Legal Services of LA, and the Alaska Bar Association, created Figuring Out FEMA, a pocket-sized guide that breaks down the process of enrolling in FEMA's Individual Assistance program. It also explains how to appeal FEMA's decision if you are denied aid or need more assistance and explains your rights when interacting with FEMA. This guide is available to download for free.
- FEMA Appeals Interactive Interview: The FEMA appeals interactive interview allows survivors to generate an appeal letter to FEMA and is available at www.femappeals.org. This digital tool was initially designed for pro se use following Superstorm Sandy and updated in 2017 by Weil Gotshal after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, María, and the California wildfires.
- FEMA videos:
- FEMA has a video that outlines how a disaster gets declared. This page provides procedural information regarding the Stafford Act declaration process and is intended for emergency managers, elected officials, media, and stakeholders interested in the formal declaration process.
- South Carolina Legal Services has a series of disaster videos on their website that cover the FEMA application and appeals process, as well as short disaster-related videos for Instagram.
- Legal Aid of North Carolina has a library of more than 50 disaster relief videos. Topics include hurricane preparedness, flood recovery, tenant rights, food benefits, property insurance, heir property/clear title issues, FEMA benefits, consumer scams, replacing important government documents, estate planning and more.
- Wildfire and Other Disaster Victims Relief with Adrienne Houghton - 5 Common FEMA Mistakes to Avoid. This video is intended to help disaster victims and explains how to avoid 5 common mistakes in filing a FEMA claim. In creating this video, TalksOnLaw relied on insight from pro bono and public interest attorney experts from APBCo (The Association of Pro Bono Counsel), NYLAG, and the New York Chief Judge's Task Force on Hurricane Relief.
- United Policyholders has insurance claim and recovery help resources here.
- The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies has a Disaster Hotline for survivors with disabilities: (800) 626-4959.
- CFPB: Help for homeowners and renters during the coronavirus national emergency - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides information regarding assistance for homeowners, renters, and landlords.
- Homeowners: Learn about options to help your situation, like repaying any amount not paid during forbearance, avoiding foreclosure, and maintaining your reverse mortgage.
- Renters: Federal, state, and local governments are offering relief. See options to avoid eviction, get rental assistance, and understand your rights.
- Landlords: If you've lost rental income, you may be struggling to pay your mortgage and other costs. See alternatives to eviction and get help.
- CFPB: Help for renters - State and local organizations are distributing federal rental assistance in their communities. The money can help landlords and renters who are struggling to keep up with rent and other bills.
- On May 26, 2021, FEMA announced it had updated the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide (IAPPG), the comprehensive guide for all FEMA Individual Assistance programs. This update includes changes that align policy to current processing guidance, lessons learned from recent natural disasters, and incorporates updates authorized by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) of 2018. See here for the updated version of the IAPPG.
- FEMA announces initial initiatives to advance equity. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said, "As emergency managers, we must meet people where they are. Our first steps forward will shape future decisions by engaging our teams, partners, key stakeholders, and the public to boost access and reduce barriers. In time, we hope our work will ultimately lead to systematic generational change for underserved populations in disaster-prone communities."
- The Practising Law Institute is offering a free One-Hour Briefing that will include an overview of FEMA's most recent updates to the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide, as well as an overview on FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program. This briefing will occur on August 18, 2021. You can register for free here.
- For Texas residents: The Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat & Poverty Law Conference will be held between August 31 and September 3, 2021. Learn more here.
- The Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat, scheduled August 31 through September 1, will be a 1½-day training crafted for pro bono coordinators from legal aid offices, law firms, law schools, and/or corporate law departments. PBCR is designed to increase the quantity and quality of civil legal aid available to the low-income and poor Texans through pro bono efforts. See the agenda here.
The Poverty Law Conference, scheduled September 1-3, will be a three-day training on poverty law issues affecting low-income Texans. PLC offers a multi-tracked substantive curriculum with a specific public interest focus including, but not limited to, family, housing, consumer, immigration, disaster response, and public benefits. Some of the most knowledgeable poverty law practitioners and private attorneys in their respective fields are selected as presenters for the PLC. See the agenda here .
- The ABA-YLD Disaster Legal Services Program has resources available on their website for both survivors and attorneys, and the ABA Center for Pro Bono also has resources for pro bono in disaster response.
- The ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness has helpful resources on their page here.
- 25 Pro Tips for Working with FEMA: COVID-19 Edition: In March 2021, the American Bar Association Disaster Legal Services Program, Equal Justice Works, Pro Bono Net, and Lone Star Legal Aid co-hosted this webinar, a renewed version of a best practices roundtable held in 2018 to support survivors affected by the 2017 major disasters. This program highlighted the strategies attorneys have used in responding to climate-related emergencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program was organized as part of the first-ever Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, an effort to increase visibility about the role of legal aid in disaster recovery and resilience, and share information on how to get involved in national disaster legal aid efforts. To download a summary, please click here.
- FEMA Appeals Brief Bank - In the aftermath of the 2017 and 2018 major natural disasters and in coordination with leading legal aid organizations, Pro Bono Net and Lone Star Legal Aid collected FEMA appeals forms and letters that advocates can refer to as examples and adapt as necessary. Some of these documents are redacted, but cover the topics of FEMA inspections, personal property, recoupments, and insurance. The brief bank includes sample documents used by attorneys at Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice. You can find the sample appeals here (requires log-in, but membership is free).
- Disaster preparedness flyers for organizations - If your organization is looking to create or update flyers, brochures, etc. related to disaster legal preparedness, we have a collection of examples in this library. Flyers include samples from Lone Star Legal Aid and Legal Aid of North Carolina and cover the topics of flood insurance, document preparation and replacement, and FEMA recoupments. The library requires a log-in, but membership is free.
- FLAdvocate.org is a website that provides resources to help lawyers and advocates better serve low-income survivors of disasters. FLAdvocate.org's online library is a great example of disaster legal service resources available for advocates.
- LSC's Program Checklist helps LSC-funded programs meet a disaster, if they haven't done so before, and serves as a refresher for those that have. LSC also created a series of videos to help legal aid advocates and volunteer attorneys in post-disaster counseling on issues such as the Stafford Act, housing issues and contractor disputes. In April 2018, LSC's Board of Directors established LSC's Disaster Task Force. The focus of the Task Force was to foster and promote better cooperation, coordination, and communication between and among the emergency management community, legal services providers, the private bar, the judiciary, community-based organizations, and the business community to ensure that low-income disaster survivors receive the legal assistance they need. The Disaster Task Force Report can be found here.
- Invitation to become a member of the ABA Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services (DLS) Program: The Disaster Legal Services program is a federal disaster legal assistance program operated by the ABA Young Lawyers Division pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with FEMA. The DLS team meets every month to discuss disaster legal hotline implementations across the country, help coordinate the delivery of pro bono legal services to survivors of major disasters throughout the United States, among other efforts to support disaster preparedness, relief and recovery. Members of the program have to be 1) licensed attorneys in any U.S. jurisdiction and 2) under the age of 36 or in practice five years or less. You can find more information on the program here: http://ambar.org/disasterhelp/. If you're interested in applying to the DLS program, please email Linda Anderson Stanley at email@example.com.
- Equal Justice Works: Become a Host Organization!
- Be on the lookout for host opportunities for the Disaster Resilience Program in New Orleans and New Mexico in the coming weeks.
- The Disaster Resilience Program mobilizes Fellows and law students to provide free civil legal aid in disaster prone areas to ensure vital legal services are accessible, comprehensive, and responsive to the unique needs of individuals, families, and communities so lives can be stabilized and communities rebuilt to be more resilient.
- "5,000 Hours" Video: In an effort to increase the number of lawyers who provide pro bono civil legal help following disasters, Voices for Civil Justice, the ABA Center for Pro Bono, Pro Bono Net, Lone Star Legal Aid, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and the Dentsu Aegis Network, and their respective legal aid and private marketing partners joined to create "5,000 Hours," a video that encourages pro bono legal volunteerism around disasters. We encourage you to watch and share on your webpage if helpful.
- The National Center for State Courts developed a new emergency management planning guide to help court officials better prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies that threaten court operations.
For a list of C-19 legal response resources, including technology projects related to the pandemic, consider visiting https://www.disasterlegalaid.org/advocates/covid-19/