LSC Awards More Than $14 Million in Disaster Relief Grants to Legal Aid Organizations
WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced today that it is awarding 11 disaster relief grants to legal aid organizations in California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the Virgin Islands totaling $14,145,055.
Earlier this year, Congress enacted an $89.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations law that included $15 million for LSC to support the delivery of legal services related to the destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the California wildfires in 2017. LSC’s grantees in the affected areas were invited to submit applications to provide mobile resources and technology and to increase pro bono outreach efforts in accordance with the legislation. The grants support projects that mobilize pro bono attorneys, enhance online resources for survivors, and improve communication and cooperation among legal aid clients, pro bono attorneys, and partner organizations.
"Natural disasters have a disproportionate impact on low-income people and give rise to a significant number of legal issues – such as wrongful evictions, denials of insurance claims and government benefits, and consumer scams,” said LSC President James J. Sandman. “We are grateful to Congress for this supplemental appropriation, which will fund critical legal services for people affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the California wildfires."
The 11 funded projects are:
California Rural Legal Assistance
California Rural Legal Assistance will use its $155,850 to coordinate recovery planning, expand communications to facilitate recovery, and design and maintains a resource-mobilization system to allow pro bono attorneys better serve wildfire survivors.
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
Neighborhood Legal Services will receive $546,374 to respond to the legal needs of the Creek Fire survivors. The grant will help Neighborhood Legal Services improve technology and infrastructure to operate in remote areas, replicate proven best practices by coordinating county and California-wide disaster legal services and pro bono efforts, and improve outreach with the assistance of a full-time pro bono disaster legal services coordinator.
Bay Area Legal Services
Bay Area Legal Services will receive $626,406 to support its Suncoast Disaster Relief Project. The project recruits and trains pro bono attorneys to provide disaster legal services to hurricane survivors residing throughout the project’s five-county region of West Florida. To better serve survivors, the project will improve online resources for disaster legal services and make them more accessible and easy to understand for all users, including clients, pro bono attorneys, and partner agencies.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida will use its $731,459 grant to address the unresolved legal issues faced by survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The grant will be used to improve survivor awareness of available disaster legal services and benefits by developing a system to triage client eligibility for resources and services. Community Legal Services will also coordinate with service agencies and other partners to better serve disaster survivors.
Legal Services of Greater Miami
Legal Services of Greater Miami will receive $1,037,125 for its Disaster Legal Access Project. The project will increase access to disaster legal services for survivors of Hurricane Irma and expand the ability of legal aid staff to serve survivors. The project will allow the organization to enhance online resources and guided navigation for people affected by the disaster using its online intake system. The grant will also support improved telephone hotline capabilities, in-person outreach, and expanded pro bono recruitment.
Legal Services of North Florida
Legal Services of North Florida’s $580,952 grant will support its Enhancing Pro Bono through Improved Engagement with Non-Legal Disaster Responders Project. The project will work statewide in Florida to bridge the knowledge gap between legal and non-legal disaster responders. It will help educate partners about the many legal issues disaster survivors face and about how to connect survivors with legal aid and pro bono attorneys. The project will also educate pro bono volunteers throughout Florida about how to connect with other disaster services providers when survivors require more assistance.
Puerto Rico Legal Services
Puerto Rico Legal Services will use its $2,041,505 grant to create a disaster response unit to better serve the survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The unit will improve the program’s disaster response capabilities. The project will educate clients, create a quick-response disaster plan for the program’s technology and client service systems, and enhance the delivery of pro bono services around the island.
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas -- $20,066
Lone Star Legal Aid -- $4,888,789
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid -- $1,278,922
LSC’s three Texas grantees will use this funding to create and implement a statewide collaboration that will support the efficient and effective delivery of disaster legal services to Hurricane Harvey survivors. The system will address gaps in the present disaster legal services system and provide online resources for Hurricane Harvey survivors. It will create a guided navigation platform that determines individualized resource needs and then provides those resources to disaster survivors and to a pro bono coordination network. The grant will also support a statewide pro bono coordinator who will recruit, train, and support pro bono volunteers. Lone Star Legal Aid is leading the effort.
Legal Services of the Virgin Islands
Legal Services of the Virgin Islands will use its $2,237,607 grant to create technology-based solutions to ensure effective and uninterrupted delivery of disaster legal services to the survivors of the 2017 hurricanes on the three Caribbean islands. The project will increase the legal resources and capacity to meet the legal needs of hurricane survivors by using technology and pro bono to reach out to central and remote areas. It will promote and encourage pro bono participation to increase the available legal resources for delivering services to the client community.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.