Commentary

Amazing new website explores how legal aid will be critical to Florence recovery

If you get a few minutes, be sure to check out the new Hurricane Florence recovery website “Rebuilding Lives in the Carolinas”. The site, which was put together by an array of legal aid and legal services supporters in both North and South Carolina, explains “how civil legal aid is helping North and South Carolinians rebuild their lives and the economy after Hurricane Florence.”

The website includes attractive maps and other visuals that explain the storm’s history and destructive path.

It also explains the critical need for legal aid to help in the recovery:

A community’s ability to rebound in the weeks, months and years after a storm depends not only on meeting the immediate needs of food, water, and temporary shelter, but also on its investment in the long-term recovery of the people seeking to rebuild their lives, homes, jobs, and businesses.

Disasters leave in their wake myriad civil legal issues that, if not addressed early on, can lead to more costly problems in the long run. Civil legal aid organizations are uniquely equipped to resolve many of those problems, returning survivors to productivity and preventing future reliance on the state and federal government.

After the levee breaks that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, recovery came to a standstill in many areas because residents who had inherited property in the years prior to the storm hadn’t been able to afford going through probate. The lack of clear title made residents ineligible for FEMA benefits. As many as 20,000 people had trouble getting government aid to rebuild because they couldn’t prove they owned their homes, National Public Radio reported.

Civil legal aid is the remedy to such problems. It can provide early interventions to help survivors:

  • secure FEMA benefits and appeals
  • apply for nutrition assistance (SNAP/D-SNAP) & disaster unemployment benefits
  • protect themselves from fraudulent home repair and debris removal contractors
  • make life, medical and property insurance claims
  • replace wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster
  • avoid mortgage foreclosure
  • address landlord/tenant issues involving damaged or lost property
  • obtain assistance with utility bills

This video sums neatly sums up the critical services Legal Aid provides:

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