Pro Bono News

Volunteer Lawyers Prepare to Team Up With FEMA for Hurricane Lane

Friday, August 24, 2018

Volunteer Lawyers Prepare to Team Up With FEMA for Hurricane Lane

"A group of volunteer attorneys is ready to leap to action if President Donald Trump issues a federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Lane.

The category 4 storm was already pummeling some Hawaiian islands with strong rains and winds the morning of Aug. 23. Massive flooding is expected.

The American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in major disasters to provide free legal services to low-income survivors.

There have been numerous severe natural disasters in the past several years, including Hurricanes Harvey and Maria and the wildfires in Northern California, spurring the formation of natural disaster task forces.

Unusual Relationship
YLD’s relationship with FEMA is a little unusual, Andrew Jack VanSingel told Bloomberg Law. VanSingel is the disaster legal services coordinator for YLD.

When a disaster occurs, FEMA notifies YLD if it needs their help and can assist with training attorneys. FEMA also provides YLD with access to disaster recovery centers.

The groups work together to provide disaster legal services but can become adversaries when clients appeal denials of benefits, VanSingel said.

FEMA may deny benefits when claimants, for example, lack of proof of ownership or occupancy, he said.

Disaster survivors need an advocate to guide them through the process of proving these things. That’s what YLD helps with, VanSingel said..."

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