Across New York and New Jersey, more than 500,000 households have registered with FEMA for assistance. Almost half of those registrants are low-income individuals, who can’t afford an attorney. FEMAAppeals.org offers individuals the opportunity to advocate on their own behalf. Additionally, visitors to the website can access a calendar of Sandy-related legal clinics, important hotline numbers and links to disaster-related websites. The site also has a page of frequently asked questions about FEMA appeals.
Victor Tello, the coordinating attorney of the City Bar Justice Center’s Disaster Relief Project which has been hosting Sandy-related disaster relief legal clinics since November, piloted the tool, using both the interactive model and the on-line form template. “The City Bar Justice Center is pleased to have helped draft this important tool. We have used it with clients and found it to be a fast and efficient way to create a FEMA appeal letter that contains all the information required by FEMA and sets for the client’s arguments in a straightforward manner.”
Pro Bono Net began mobilizing NY legal relief efforts within days of Sandy striking the East Coast. Immediate legal relief efforts were focused on the critical needs of low-income victims, but it quickly became apparent that legal issues resulting from the storm would be ongoing. Pro Bono Net has a proven track record of using innovative technology to help bridge the justice gap.
“Looking at the number of people who need to complete appeals, we saw that it is simply larger in scope than the legal services community can handle. FEMAAppeals.org is a way for technology to help address a pressing legal need hitting large swaths of the population,”
While the FEMAAppeals.org website was developed to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, the technology will aid in future natural disasters anywhere in the United States. Individuals who have been denied for a claim can visit www.femaappeals.org for help completing an appeal. The site was developed with the help of legal services organizations and private attorneys who specialize in FEMA appeals and other legal issues affecting victims of Superstorm Sandy including the City Bar Justice Center; the Legal Aid Society; Legal Services – NYC; Legal Services NYC – Brooklyn Programs; Manhattan Legal Services; Volunteers of Legal Services; the Urban Justice Center; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
About Pro Bono Net
Pro Bono Net is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer lawyer participation. Pro Bono Net uses innovative web-based platforms—www.probono.net, www.lawhelp.org and www.lawhelpinteractive.org —to recruit and support volunteer lawyers and provide direct information and tools for self-representation to low-income communities. Pro Bono Net also developed Pro Bono Manager (http://www.probono.net/