LSC Disaster Task Force

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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. They 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 wildfires 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. 

Cover of Disaster Task Force report showing flooded city

Disaster Task Force Report

The report’s recommendations are organized by: (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 a significant 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 other task forces, click here. To see LSC's Natural Disasters Fact Sheet, click here.

Disaster-Related Resources

  • Legal Aid Disaster Resource Center (
    Following the recommendation of the Disaster Task Force “to create an online ‘one-stop’ resource for disaster training materials and expertise,” was developed to serve as a national, multi-partner site that represents the efforts of the broader legal aid community to effectively meet the civil legal needs of disaster survivors.

  • 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. 

Disaster Task Force Members

Disaster Task Force Members

Chef José Andrés
Chairman, World Central Kitchen

Joseph Baxter
State Court Administrator, 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

Paulette Brown
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

Kim Burgo
Vice President of Disaster Operations, Catholic Charities USA

Brian Corbin
Executive Vice President for Programs and Member Services, Catholic Charities USA

Erin Dearborn Coryell
Program Officer, Disaster Relief & Recovery, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies

Brackett Denniston
Senior Counsel, Goodwin Procter LLP
Former Senior Vice President and General Counsel, General Electric Company

Lisa Dewey
Pro Bono Partner, DLA Piper

Mary DeWitt-Dia
Community Mobilization and Partnerships, American Red Cross

Elizabeth Disco-Shearer
Chief Executive Officer, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation

Jim Featherstone
President and Chief Executive Officer, Homeland Security Advisory Council

Dorothy Fernandez
Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster LLP
Board of Directors, Association of Pro Bono Counsel

Richard Flores
Director, Legislative Affairs and Tribal Relations, Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council

Ivan Fong
Senior Vice President, Legal Affairs and General Counsel, 3M Company

Gregory Forrester
President and Chief Executive Officer, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

Paul Furrh
Executive Director, Lone Star Legal Aid

Lisa Gavin
Staff Attorney, Iowa Legal Aid

Barbara Graff
Director, Office of Emergency Management, City of Seattle

Dave Halverson
Chief Executive Officer, Cypress International

Brian Hastings
Director, Alabama Emergency Management Agency

Nathan Hecht
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas

Federico Hernández Denton
Former Chief Justice, Puerto Rico Supreme Court

Stephanie Hudson
Executive Director, Oklahoma Indian Legal Services

Ilene Jacobs
Director of Litigation, Advocacy & Training, California Rural Legal Assistance

Chauntis Jenkins-Floyd
Partner, Porteous, Hainkel & Johnson, LLP
Chair, American Bar Association Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness

Ellyn Josef
Pro Bono Counsel, Vinson & Elkins LLP

John Kiernan
Partner, Debevoise and Plimpton LLP

Abby Kuzma
Co-Founder, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic

Jorge Labarga
Chief Justice, Florida Supreme Court

Madeleine Landrieu
Dean, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Mary Landrieu
Senior Policy Advisor, Van Ness Feldman
Former U.S. Senator

Max Laun
Vice President and General Counsel, Arconic

Glenn Leon
Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

Buck Lewis
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

Alex Miller
Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel, Global Regulatory Affairs, Visa Inc.

Monica Montoya
Manager, Partnerships, Disaster Cycle Services, American Red Cross

Frank Neuner
Founder and Managing Partner, NeunerPate

Lori Peek
Director, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado

Shirley Peng
Disaster Relief Project Manager, Legal Aid of Nebraska

Judy Perry Martinez
Of Counsel, Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn LLP

Will Polk
Assistant General Counsel, North Carolina Department of Public Safety

Raun Rasmussen
Executive Director, Legal Services of NYC

Harry Reasoner
Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP

Marcie Roth
President and Chief Executive Officer, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

Eve Runyon
President and Chief Executive Officer, Pro Bono Institute

Sharon Ryan
Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, International Paper

Hadassa Santini Colberg
Executive Director, Puerto Rico Legal Services

Don Saunders
Vice President, Civil Legal Services, National Legal Aid & Defender Association

Aaron Scheinwald
Coordinating Attorney, New York Legal Assistance Group

John Schultz
Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

Lisa Schwab
Senior Corporate Counsel, U.S. Consumer Markets Legal Services, Liberty Mutual Insurance

James Silkenat
Director and Treasurer, World Justice Project
Former President of the American Bar Association 

Mark Sloan
Coordinator, Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Mike Sprayberry
Director, Emergency Management, North Carolina Public Safety

Ellis Stanley
Managing Partner, Ellis Stanley Partners, LLC
Chairman of the Global Board, International Association of Emergency Managers

Laura Stein
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Corporate Affairs, The Clorox Company

Vance Taylor
Chief, Office of Access and Functional Needs, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services

Jennifer Tobin
Program and Research Associate, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado 

Laura Tuggle
Executive Director, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

Andrew VanSingel
Director, Disaster Legal Services, Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association

Monica Vigues-Pitan
Executive Director, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.

*Members also included the LSC Board and previous LSC President James J. Sandman.