DISASTER ASSISTANCE

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					 DISASTER LEGAL
   ASSISTANCE


     AN OVERVIEW
          FOR
LEGAL AID PRACTITIONERS
  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
 DELIVERING LEGAL SERVICES
      AFTER A DISASTER

I will discuss:

• Stages in disaster recovery
• Setting up a disaster legal aid project
• The federal disaster relief management
  system, and
• Disaster benefits under the Stafford Act
Immediate Concerns
  •   Program’s two immediate
      concerns:

      –   How the disaster has affected
          its staff, equipment and
          offices
      –   How the disaster has affected
          its clients
   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
    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 disaster housing 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
  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
   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
             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)
             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.
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
  Long-term Advocacy Phase




• Assisting community toward long term
  recovery
• Chuck Elsesser will address this topic
FEDERAL EMERGENCY
MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
      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
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
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
     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
       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
      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
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
         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
    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
               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
   Information in Declaration of
             Disaster




• Incident period - losses must be sustained
  during incident period
• Types of assistance provided
• Geographical area of disaster
    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
   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
   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
  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
         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
      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
             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
     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
         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
DUA Advocacy Issues

    • 30-day application deadline can
      & should be extended
    • Look at publicity to ensure low-
      income people will know about
      this benefit
    FEMA Disaster Benefits



• Disaster Housing Assistance

• Financial Assistance to Address Other
  Needs
    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
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
   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
      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

				
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