LSC Awards Disaster Preparedness Grants to Assist Low-Income Americans in the Midwest

WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced today that five legal aid organizations will receive grants totaling $985,000 to help low-income communities in the Midwest prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. Building on the successes of Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Nebraska—LSC’s partners for disaster preparedness pilot programs launched in 2015—the project will continue to enhance preparedness in Iowa and Nebraska while expanding to Arkansas, Montana, and Oklahoma.

When disaster strikes a community, the vulnerabilities of low-income people are amplified, and the need for legal assistance becomes even more critical. Survivors need experts who understand the legal issues involved and who can help them secure temporary housing, file insurance claims, replace important legal documents, negotiate with landlords to make necessary repairs, and more. Legal aid is essential in helping survivors get back on their feet. By establishing partnerships among legal services providers, volunteer attorneys, and disaster response organizations, LSC’s Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project helps address the crucial disaster-related legal needs of low-income communities.  

“Natural disasters cause hardships and complications for people from all walks of life,” explained Senator John Boozman (AR), whose state is receiving a disaster preparedness grant. “Ensuring that those who would ordinarily have difficulty obtaining legal representation and assistance have access to these services in the wake of a disaster is good news. I’m pleased Arkansans impacted by recent flooding and other natural disasters will have more resources to help them recover.”

“The significant grant awarded to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Legal Services today is welcome news,” said Senator Jim Inhofe (OK). “Too often, communities can be overlooked during the recovery efforts after natural disasters. This grant will bring together key agencies and private partners to reach more people in need of legal assistance to repair their homes or businesses following the recent flood.”

The recipients of the 2019 Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project grants are: 

Legal Aid of Arkansas - $161,000 

Legal Aid of Arkansas will improve the state’s disaster preparedness by coordinating the work of the Arkansas civil legal aid system, the private bar, and the emergency management and disaster response community regarding legal issues affecting low-income individuals. The project will develop a statewide legal disaster response plan that recruits and trains pro bono attorneys to handle disaster-related cases. 

Iowa Legal Aid - $80,000 

Iowa Legal Aid will continue building a network of volunteer attorneys across the state through its disaster relief project. It will also provide support to other programs in the Midwest affected by disasters. 

Montana Legal Services Association - $250,000 

Montana Legal Services Association will develop and implement a sustainable, statewide network of disaster recovery stakeholders, both civil and tribal, to share expertise. The project will train members to identify and refer disaster-related legal issues back to the program. It will also engage and train a team of volunteer attorneys in advance of a disasters so that they will be ready to respond when a disaster strikes. These volunteers will be supported by technology enhancements that will improve capacity for future disasters. 

Legal Aid of Nebraska - $80,000 

Legal Aid of Nebraska will continue the work of its disaster relief project, building a network of volunteer attorneys across the state. It will also provide support to other programs in the Midwest affected by disasters.  

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. - $414,000 

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is partnering with Oklahoma Indian Legal Services to expand client outreach and educate local, state, and tribal emergency managers about the disaster-related legal needs of low-income communities. This joint project will steward relationships with human services agencies, the private bar, and the emergency management and disaster response community, and will form relationships with faith communities to reach more people in need of services. 

This is the third time LSC has awarded grants to legal services providers in the Midwest. The Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project is made possible by funding from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.