Disaster Task Force
Disaster Task Force Overview
In April 2018, LSC’s Board of Directors established LSC’s Disaster Task Force. The focus of the Task Force was to foster and promote better cooperation, coordination, and communication between and among the emergency management community, legal services providers, the private bar, the judiciary, community-based organizations, and the business community to ensure that low-income disaster survivors receive the legal assistance they need. The Disaster Task Force held three in-person meetings and field hearings (in Washington, D.C., Houston, TX, and Miami, FL) between May 2018 and March 2019. The Disaster Task Force’s Recommendations highlight the concrete steps that legal services providers can take to build a systematic, coordinated, and sustainable approach to helping low-income individuals, families, and communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster. The Task Force’s recommendations focus on relationship-building, training attorneys and volunteers to recognize disaster-related civil legal issues and to represent low-income disaster survivors, as well as enabling legal services providers, courts, individuals, families, and communities to better prepare for disasters. LSC’s follow-up on these recommendations is critical to ensuring that they are implemented in a meaningful way.
Since 2013, there have been 248 major natural disaster declarations by the federal government. This number does not include state or locally declared disasters or emergencies. In the last few months of 2017, there were three major Hurricanes — Harvey, Maria, and Irma — that ravaged parts of Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as well as some of the largest wild fires that the State of California has ever experienced. It will take years for the hardest hit communities to fully recover. Low-income disasters survivors often face significant more severe losses and more significant obstacles in their path to recovery than do other community members.
This Report organizes its recommendations by the committee structure the 60-member Task Force established to conduct its work: (1) Relationship-Building and Integration of Legal Services into the Nation’s Emergency Management Infrastructure; (2) Training Pro Bono Lawyers, Other Volunteers, and Legal Services Providers; (3) Continuity of Operations Planning for Legal Services Providers and the Courts; and (4) Preparing Individuals, Families, and Communities for a Disaster.
The Impact of Disasters on Low-Income Survivors
Low-income people face deprivation and hardship as a constant in their lives. Individuals struggle to find and keep employment, affordable housing, and ways to provide basic needs including healthcare, food, and safety for themselves and their families. Even low-income families and individuals who can navigate complex bureaucracies and systems in ordinary circumstances to address basic needs with food stamps, unemployment benefits, subsidized housing assistance, and health insurance face new challenges when disaster strikes the community — amplifying the needs and vulnerabilities of low income people and rendering making the need for legal assistance more critical.
The overwhelming majority of American are unprepared if disaster strikes. Many have not developed a plan for securing important documents, medication, and living arrangements, nor have they planned for alternative ways to access critical resources and information.
In the immediate wake of a disaster or crisis, disaster-related legal issues follow a common pattern. Survivors often need help obtaining copies of important documents such as birth certificates, driver's licenses, and Social Security cards to apply for or restore benefits and supports. The need for adequate housing is generally a major issue for survivors of most disasters. In addition, low-income and other vulnerable people who need housing after an emergency are more susceptible to scams and price gouging.
With families experiencing even more stressors than before, there is also an increase in the need for more legal information on core areas of practice for legal aid, such as public benefits, domestic violence prevention, consumer law, and fraud prevention.
Despite legal aid’s impact in the aftermath of disaster, there is asignificant gap in the disaster-response landscape because of the lack of a coordinated effort to deal with the legal needs of disaster survivors. Most disaster-response organizations are unaware of both the legal rights and issues faced by disaster survivors and the particular needs of low-income communities. Legal aid lawyers are deeply networked in low-income communities and have experience creating access for people who face barriers to services and information. To learn more about the Task Force, click here. To read more about LSC's varied Task Force efforts, click here. To see LSC's Natural Disasters Fact Sheet, click here.
Disaster Legal Hotlines (By State)
Find disaster-related legal aid in your state.
Find Disaster Recovery Centers
Disaster Recovery Centers are accessible facilities and mobile offices you can visit to learn more about FEMA and other disaster assistance programs. The DRC Locator helps you find the hours, services, and locations of DRCs near you.
Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
Tips for creating an emergency plan.
To watch the March 4, 2020 panel from the New Orleans Disaster Task Force Report release event click here or watch below.
To watch the September 17, 2019 panel from the Disaster Task Force Report release event click here or watch below.
To see the March 13, 2018 briefing in which LSC announced the proposed Disaster Task Force, click here or on the video below.
To watch the October 16, 2017 panel in Boston, Massachusetts on the intersection of natural disasters, legal aid, and the justice system, click here or on the video below.
To learn more about the role legal aid plays in the aftermath of a natural disaster, click here or the video below to watch the February 7, 2017 briefing.
Disaster Task Force Co-chairs
|Jonathan Lippman, Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals||
Martha Minow, LSC Vice-Chair and Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard University and Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard Law School
Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, LSC board member and Chairman of the Department of Pastoral Studies and Assistant Professor of Canon Law at St. Patrick Seminary
Disaster Task Force Members
Chef José Andrés
Chairman, World Central Kitchen
State Court Admininstrator, Rhode Island Judiciary
President-Elect, Conference of State Court Administrators
David F. Bienvenu
Partner, Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn LLP
Member, American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Services
Partner, Locke Lord LLP
Former President, American Bar Association
Joseph F. Bruno
President and Chief Executive Officer, Helen Keller Services for the Blind
Former Commissioner, New York City Office of Emergency Management
Vice President of Disaster Operations, Catholic Charities USA
Executive Vice President for Programs and Member Services, Catholic Charities USA
Erin Dearborn Coryell
Program Officer, Disaster Relief & Recovery, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies
Senior Counsel, Goodwin Procter LLP
Former Senior Vice President and General Counsel, General Electric Company
Pro Bono Partner, DLA Piper
Community Mobilization and Partnerships, American Red Cross
Chief Executive Officer, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation
President and Chief Executive Officer, Homeland Security Advisory Council
Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster LLP
Board of Directors, Association of Pro Bono Counsel
Director, Legislative Affairs and Tribal Relations, Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council
Senior Vice President, Legal Affairs and General Counsel, 3M Company
President and Chief Executive Officer, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Executive Director, Lone Star Legal Aid
Staff Attorney, Iowa Legal Aid
Director, Office of Emergency Management, City of Seattle
Chief Executive Officer, Cypress International
Director, Alabama Emergency Management Agency
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas
Federico Hernández Denton
Former Chief Justice, Puerto Rico Supreme Court
Executive Director, Oklahoma Indian Legal Services
Director of Litigation, Advocacy & Training, California Rural Legal Assistance
Partner, Porteous, Hainkel & Johnson, LLP
Chair, American Bar Association Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness
Pro Bono Counsel, Vinson & Elkins LLP
Partner, Debevoise and Plimpton LLP
Co-Founder, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic
Chief Justice, Florida Supreme Court
Dean, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Senior Policy Advisor, Van Ness Feldman
Former U.S. Senator
Vice President and General Counsel, Arconic
Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
Partner, Baker Donelson
Chair, American Bar Association Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service
Matthew A. Lyttle
Deputy Director, Individual and Community Preparedness Division, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Mary Ellen Martinet
Associate Chief Counsel, Response and Recovery, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel, Global Regulatory Affairs, Visa Inc.
Manager, Partnerships, Disaster Cycle Services, American Red Cross
Founder and Managing Partner, NeunerPate
Director, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado
Disaster Relief Project Manager, Legal Aid of Nebraska
Judy Perry Martinez
Of Counsel, Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn LLP
Assistant General Counsel, North Carolina Department of Public Safety
Executive Director, Legal Services of NYC
Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP
President and Chief Executive Officer, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies
President and Chief Executive Officer, Pro Bono Institute
Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, International Paper
Hadassa Santini Colberg
Executive Director, Puerto Rico Legal Services
Vice President, Civil Legal Services, National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Coordinating Attorney, New York Legal Assistance Group
Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
Senior Corporate Counsel, U.S. Consumer Markets Legal Services, Liberty Mutual Insurance
Director and Treasurer, World Justice Project
Former President of the American Bar Association
Coordinator, Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Director, Emergency Management, North Carolina Public Safety
Managing Partner, Ellis Stanley Partners, LLC
Chairman of the Global Board, International Association of Emergency Managers
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Corporate Affairs, The Clorox Company
Chief, Office of Access and Functional Needs, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
Program and Research Associate, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado
Executive Director, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Director, Disaster Legal Services, Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association
Executive Director, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.
Members of the Task Force also include all LSC board members and its President, Jim Sandman.