Pro Bono News

Legal Aid Groups Shouldn't Wait For A Disaster To Act

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Legal Aid Groups Shouldn't Wait For A Disaster To Act

"When people think of providing aid after a hurricane, earthquake or flood, they don't typically think of legal aid, but natural disaster victims often need help with everything from disputes with landlords to appealing a denied FEMA claim to proving their identity after losing key documents.

A new report from the Legal Services Corp., which provides grants to legal aid organizations across the country, says that as natural disasters become an even greater concern, legal aid organizations should be working to establish relationships with disaster-relief agencies and community groups, as well as educating the public and training volunteers, so that when a disaster strikes, they will be poised to start helping right away.

"In the emergency management field, the mantra is, 'The worst time to exchange a business card is after the disaster,'" said Lynn Jennings, an LSC vice president who worked on the task force that compiled the report. "You want to create those relationships beforehand."

In recent years, the United States has been hit with numerous severe disasters, such as wildfires in California, hurricanes in the Gulf and in the Caribbean, and major flooding in the Midwest. Moreover, experts fear that such events could grow more frequent or more damaging as a result of climate change.

Providing aid to people affected can take many forms, but for many, getting back to normal often requires a lawyer..."

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