Puerto Rico Legal Services gets $882K to help earthquake victims
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in Wash. announced it is awarding $882,140 to Puerto Rico Legal Services (PRLS) to support the delivery of legal services to low-income people impacted by the 2020 earthquakes.
PRLS is one of 19 organizations around the United States receiving grants for natural disasters faced in 2020 and 2021. Congress included $40 million for LSC in a $28.6 billion emergency supplemental appropriation attached to the September 2021 Continuing Resolution to fund the government in FY 2022.
Survivors of natural disasters often require immediate legal assistance to file for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance and insurance benefits and to deal with related evictions, unemployment, and document replacement.
Legal challenges can haunt survivors for years. Cases involving FEMA appeals, bankruptcy, public housing, and domestic violence will arise, and disaster victims can be vulnerable to fraud or scams, the organization stated.
“Low-income people who confront civil legal issues in the wake of natural disasters face an uphill battle, and they shouldn’t have to go it alone,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “We are grateful that Congress recognizes the need for legal assistance in these recovering communities and provided this funding that will help our neighbors repair and stay in their homes, obtain key identification documents, apply for benefits and so much more.”
PRLS will use its grant to provide advice and legal representation in accessing funds to repair or rebuild homes through its Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) program, which has been “pivotal in its ability to provide services as first responders during disaster events,” according to the stateside organization.
PAI attorneys will negotiate or litigate administrative proceedings in the U.S. Department of Housing, which administers the Community Block Development Grant funds assigned to rebuilding homes of families affected by the earthquakes.
To make the PAI program more efficient, PRLS will focus on enhancing its case management system, LegalServer. Additionally, PRLS staff will participate in community outreach activities and legal education events.