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The Evolving Face of Superstorm Sandy

Monday, February 18, 2013

  • Organization: City Bar Justice Center

Almost four months after Superstorm Sandy, Victor Tello, Coordinating Attorney of the City Bar Justice Center Disaster Assistance Project, continues to work tirelessly to address the legal needs of storm victims and coordinate the response of the legal community.  Even now after the most immediate issues of the storm have been dealt with, Victor tells us that Sandy victims are still very much in need. 

In the preliminary stages of disaster relief, those hardest hit by the storm were dealing with applications for FEMA assistance, locating crucial paperwork that may have been destroyed or lost in flooded homes and making initial applications to private insurance companies.  Now, needs are slowly evolving into the next stage of disaster relief.  The Disaster Assistance Project is currently assisting victims with private insurance and FEMA denials, landlord/ tenant disputes and concerns about contractor fraud.  Much like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, vulnerable communities are afraid they are being taken advantage of by contractors who give dubious information about project costs.  Families who are trying to rebuild their homes and think they may be dealing with fraudulent contractors have been reaching out to the Disaster Assistance Project for help. For others, FEMA appeal deadlines are quickly approaching, and Victor says the Disaster Assistance Project and their volunteer attorneys are doing everything possible to help families meet these deadlines.

Shifting gears for the next stage of disaster assistance, Victor and the Disaster Assistance Project are working on developing an initiative that will help families access benefits of the Neighborhood Recovery Fund (NRF). NRF is a Goldman Sachs Gives- sponsored emergency fund that provides grants and loans of up to $5000 to homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy. The Project will work to identify homeowners who might be eligible to access these grants and loans and assist them in navigating the application process. Victor notes, the Restoration Center Clinics at Arverne will be ending this month as most families have accessed the services already provided there and will need other kinds of legal assistance moving forward. While those clinics may be winding down, pro bono attorneys around the city are eager to get involved in the next steps of recovery. Victor tells us, “the pro bono attorneys seem to be really excited about doing these cases and many are even coming back to take on additional cases.” While needs may be changing, it seems that commitment to providing legal services for Sandy victims is unwavering.

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