disaster legal assistance n.
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  2. HANDLING CATASTROPHIC DISASTERS • Disaster  large number of problems • Legal aid program problems • Office & equipment damage • Staff issues – immediate & longer-term • Client problems • Old problems – in far greater numbers • New disaster-related problems

  3. DELIVERING LEGAL SERVICESAFTER A DISASTER I will discuss: • Stages in disaster recovery • Setting upa disaster legal aid project • The federal disaster relief management system, and • Disaster benefits under the Stafford Act

  4. Immediate Concerns • Program’s two immediate concerns: • How the disaster has affected its staff, equipment and offices • How the disaster has affected its clients

  5. Effect on staff, equipment & offices • Files, office equipment and office itself must be salvaged • Staff themselves may be disaster victims & will need to address their personal needs first

  6. Assessing Clients’ Needs • Assess the need for immediate assistance • Assess the type of permanent impact on the client community • If major impact is to housing: • Immediate need is disasterhousing assistance • Long term need is affordable housing • If major impact is on jobs: • Immediate need is for disaster UC benefits • Long term need is for economic redevelopment

  7. DISASTER RECOVERY - Three Phases • Immediate response phase • Information gathering • Advocating for particular assistance • Getting information out to client community • Individual representation phase • Representing people in disaster assistance claims • Representing people with disaster related legal problems • Advocating for extensions in disaster application deadlines • Long term advocacy phase • Ensure rebuilding includes affordable housing • Ensure economic redevelopment results in jobs for clients

  8. Immediate Response Phase Dealing with Chaos • Hard to get places - • Destruction of roads, bridges & automobiles • Lack of public transportation • Hard to get information out - • Damage to radio & TV stations • Destruction of client radios & TVs

  9. Suggestions • Establish legal aid outreach intake offices • Get information to clients through flyers • Rent, borrow or purchase cell phones, laptops and portable printers • Look for more permanent office space in the worst hit area(s)

  10. Keep in Mind • All program staff will need disaster training • No additional paid staff during initial phase • Coordination of program’s disaster effort • Plan for future additional staff • Obtain support from other legal aid offices and law firms • Funding sources for additional staff, etc.

  11. Individual Representation Phase • Disaster assistance benefits • FEMA disaster benefits • Housing Assistance • Financial Assistance to Address Other Needs • Disaster Unemployment Assistance • SBA Loans • Disaster related problems • Landlord/Tenant issues • Contractor disputes • Insurance issues • Advocating for extensions of deadlines

  12. Long-term Advocacy Phase • Assisting community toward long term recovery • Chuck Elsesser will address this topic


  14. Declaration of Disaster • Governed by Stafford Act 42 USC 5122 • President declares at request of Governor • If disaster is declared, possibility of full range of assistance

  15. Designation of Types and Areas of Assistance • Presidential declaration sets out • Disaster impacted area • Types of disaster assistance available • Governor may request that • Additional types of assistance be provided • Additional areas be declared disaster areas

  16. Roles of FEMA, State, SBA & Voluntary Agencies • FEMA coordinates all assistance • Voluntary agencies provide • Emergency relief • Relief in situations not covered by federal & state aid • State administers • Disaster Food Stamps • Disaster Unemployment Assistance • Disaster Crisis Counseling • FEMA administers • Disaster Housing Assistance • Financial Assistance to Address Other Needs • SBA administers Disaster Loan program

  17. Federal Administrators • Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) coordinates all relief activities – appointed by President • Disaster Recovery Manager (DRM) performs assigned tasks • FCO & DRM can be same person

  18. State Administrators • State Coordinating Officer (SCO) coordinates state & local relief activities with FEMA – appointed by Governor • Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) administers federal disaster assistance programs on behalf of state and local governments • SCO & GAR can be same person

  19. Disaster Field Office and Recovery Centers • Disaster Field Office (DFO) • Local headquarters for FEMA • May house SBA and state agencies working on disaster relief • DFO is generally office to contact to • Advocate for clients • Regarding systems issues • Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC’s) • Application centers for disaster benefits (FEMA, DUA, etc.) • Only in existence during application period • May be moved as determined by FCO

  20. Disaster Assistance Applications • FEMA application process • One-Stop Shopping • Initial interview by FEMA via telephone • Application is mailed to applicant, who must sign it • Applicant referred to other programs such as SBA loan program • Benefit application deadlines • Generally, must apply within 60 days of Declaration • Exceptions • Disaster UC must be applied for within 30 days • Disaster Loans deadline is in disaster declaration • Disaster Food Stamps deadline as established by USDA • All application deadlines may be extended by FEMA • Should be requested by the Governor’s Authorized Representative • Extensions must be approved by the FEMA Regional Director or DRM

  21. Home Inspections • FEMA must inspect the homes of all applicants to determine: • If the home can be lived in • The extent of damage to personal property • The application & inspection report are the only documents FEMA uses to make determinations of eligibility

  22. SETTING UP A LEGAL AID DISASTER PROJECT • Three focus areas • Getting to know & working with the players • Advocating ASAP for emergency and other programs that benefit low-income people • Ensuring information & services are provided to low-income people

  23. Basic Information FLS will obtain: • Name & contact information for: • FCO & DRM • SCO & GAR • Coordinating lawyer for YLD of ABA • State officials responsible for Disaster Food Stamps & Disaster UC • Copy of the declaration of disaster & any amendments The local legal aid programs will obtain: • Name & contact information for: • Local DCF officials responsible for Disaster Food Stamps & Disaster Crisis Counseling • Local AWI official responsible for Disaster UC • Local public housing official overseeing disaster response re: public housing

  24. Information in Declaration of Disaster • Incident period - losses must be sustained during incident period • Types of assistance provided • Geographical area of disaster

  25. Information from Local Survey • Destruction/damage to low-income housing • Whether grocery & convenience stores closed • Destruction/damage to large employers • How long electricity interrupted & in what areas • Automobile destruction & passability of roads • Whether newspapers delivered and radio & TV stations broadcasting

  26. Information from Officials • Types of discretionary benefits provided, e.g., Disaster Food Stamps, Section 8 vouchers • Eligibility criteria for discretionary programs • Deadlines for applying for discretionary programs • How benefits will be publicized • Where people can apply • How benefits will be distributed

  27. Advocating for Programs • Immediate Issues: • Emergency Food Stamps • Extension of Disaster UC benefits application deadline (30 days) • Additional programs: • Mobile home program • Work with FLS to advocate through Governor’s office • Intervention by federal legislator(s) may help

  28. Ensuring Low-Income People Get Information • DRC’s • Contact FEMA DRC Coordinator & visit DRC’s • Location of DRC’s should be accessible to low-income people • Language issues (number & training/skills of FEMA translators) • Is FEMA publicity likely to reach low-income people? • Look at ads to ensure they address the needs of low-income people

  29. Getting the Word Out • Legal aid offices should also get the word out using: • Public service announcements • Flyers with application deadlines, types of programs, etc. • Info re: Mobile home program • Pamphlets & FAQ’s • Disseminate at shelters, mass feeding sites, DRC’s, via community & volunteer agencies & churches • Use volunteers

  30. OUTLINE OF DISASTER BENEFITS • Disaster Food Stamps • Disaster Unemployment Compensation • FEMA Disaster Benefits • Disaster Housing Assistance • Financial Assistance to Address Other Needs • SBA Disaster Home Loans

  31. Food Stamps • Three kinds of food stamps after disaster: • Expedited – when individual or family is destitute • Replacement – for participants in FS program, when their food is destroyed • Disaster Food Stamps – for disaster victims – eligibility criteria developed for each disaster

  32. Food Stamp Advocacy • Need to advocate for replacement and disaster Food Stamps • Local legal aid program will obtain background information to support issuance • FLS will contact USDA • Local legal aid program will work with local DCF agency • Look at publicity and distribution plan to ensure low-income people will benefit

  33. Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) • Eligibility: • Anyone unemployed as a result of the disaster who is not eligible for ordinary UC • Examples: • Lost a job (even if had not started) • Cannot get a job • Cannot work because of disaster injury • Applicant has become family breadwinner because head of household died during disaster • Limited to 26 weeks following declaration • Must file application within 30 days of disaster

  34. DUA Advocacy Issues • 30-day application deadline can & should be extended • Look at publicity to ensure low-income people will know about this benefit

  35. FEMA Disaster Benefits • Disaster Housing Assistance • Financial Assistance to Address Other Needs

  36. Disaster Housing Assistance • Four types • Rental assistance – most frequently provided • Mobile homes • Repair of owner-occupied housing • Replacement of owner-occupied housing • Eligibility • Home destroyed, rendered uninhabitable, or made inaccessible • Housing assistance not covered by insurance • Assistance provided • Most frequently provided is rental assistance • Must advocate for mobile homes • Home repair or replacement money

  37. Financial Assistance to Address Other Needs • Types of Assistance • Medical & dental expenses • Funeral expenses • Repair or replacement of certain personal property • Transportation • Other expenses • Eligibility • Incurred disaster related serious need • Not eligible for SBA loan or SBA loan won’t cover • Not covered by insurance or insurance unduly delayed • Limitations on assistance • Total amount of FEMA Assistance cannot exceed $25,000

  38. SBA Disaster Home Loans • Administration & application • Administered by SBA • FEMA screens disaster applications to determine if they have the ability to repay a loan • If determined ineligible, person is considered for Other Needs FEMA grant • If not determined ineligible, file referred to SBA & • To qualify for Other Needs FEMA grant • Person must fill out SBA application & either • Be found ineligible, or • Show that have additional needs not covered by SBA loan

  39. Eligibility & Terms of SBA Disaster Home Loans • Eligibility • Person must have disaster related need, and • Have the ability to repay an SBA loan • Limitations & Terms • $40,000 limit on repair/replacement of personal property • $200,000 limit on repair or replacement of residence • No collateral required for loans less than $10,000 • Up to 30 years to repay • Lower interest rates for people who cannot obtain credit elsewhere