The COVID-19 Pandemic has greatly changed the delivery of legal services and access to legal information across the country.
Now more than ever, underserved communities have even less access to services and resources they need and advocates and organizations need remote legal support programs to connect with clients. Here are some online tools and resources to help those impacted by the pandemic solve their legal problems.
Remote Legal Support Guide: A Best Practices Manual for Nonprofit and Pro Bono Innovation
Pro Bono Net’s Remote Legal Support Guide: A Guide for Nonprofit and Pro Bono Innovation, explores ways to leverage technology and share strategies that improve access to justice for rural and underserved communities. The manual features successful Remote Legal Service (RLS) programs, including program logistics, processes, challenges, best practices, projects and models from across the nonprofit sector, and much more. As more organizations shift to remote services to maintain the health and safety of their staff and clients, the demand for tools for optimizing and structuring remote legal support programs continue to rise.
New York Efforts
New York State, in particular, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. From New York City to rural upstate communities, many have been impacted by this crisis resulting in legal issues. Pro Bono Net’s programs play a role in how legal help reaches the underserved across the state.
LawHelpNY.org, an online resource for helping low-income and vulnerable New Yorkers find solutions to their legal problems, has many valuable links for information relating to: unemployment benefits, NYC paid sick legal and much more. You can visit LawHelpNY’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources Page to help with other issues many are facing during this pandemic. On LawHelpNY, approximately 25% of the 1,100 LiveHelp chats in March were Covid-19 related, with questions ranging from the effect of Coronavirus on eviction; tenants unable to pay rent; alimony and child support modifications as a result of unemployment; public benefits and workers rights issues.
Domestic abuse has dramaticall increased with shelter-in-place orders. Our Family Offense Petition Program, powered by LawHelp Interactive and hosted on probono.net/ny/family, allows advocates to e-file Order of Protection petitions on behalf of their clients throughout New York.
The Legal Information for Families Today’s (LIFT) Family Legal Connection program uses computers, phones, and their specially designed online platform to overcome barriers to reaching rural parts of New York State.
The national LawHelp.org site is the first source of information for individuals with a legal problem. Across the network, top pages viewed recently are related to unemployment issues and SNAP benefits. There are COVID-19 resource pages covering multiple issues in states such as Washington, New York, Louisiana, and Iowa. Many LawHelp sites saw a 30-50% increase in usage from March 28-April 4. There are also reports of increased usage of LiveHelp in states that offer it.
The National Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center helps address a nationwide need to network public interest legal advocates working on disaster legal aid and share advocacy resources and tools across regions. The Center has information on COVID-19 legal response needs, resources and service delivery strategies.
Many seniors are vulnerable to issues such as financial exploitation, abuse or eviction, which are now heightened due to the current health crisis. The Legal Risk Detector enables legal aid programs and community partners to collaborate to spot and address risks to a senior’s well-being.
- The webinar: Strategies for Providing Remote Legal Services to Older Adults convened over 3,000 registrants, to discuss how legal assistance providers and aging services advocates are evolving their service delivery models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of easy to use, guided interviews are being used to support families during the COVID-19 crisis. LawHelp Interactive hosts forms in areas of law where there is need, for example Domestic Violence, child support, custody and guardianship, housing, food stamps and other public benefits, as well as wills and powers of attorney. Partners are sharing forms directly online and also through partnerships with libraries and other groups.
You can help Pro Bono Net respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by visiting our donate page. We will be making ongiong updates to this page as we continue to respond to the Coronavirus.