LSC Expands Work to Help Low-Income and Rural Communities Receive Needed Legal Services After a Disaster

December 12, 2016

WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced today that it will expand the work of its Midwest Disaster Legal Coordination Project. The project seeks to address the challenges in providing legal services to low-income disaster survivors. LSC is partnering with its sub-grantees from the first phase of the project, Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Nebraska. 

The project will help low-income and rural communities receive the legal services they need following a disaster. Solutions include engaging faith-based communities as key partners in connecting survivors to legal aid providers and creating an online interactive tool to explain significant changes in the National Flood Insurance Program. LSC and Legal Aid of Nebraska will also develop targeted materials to support disaster preparedness with four Native American tribes.      

The project will focus on disaster preparedness in the following states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Since 2004, 360 disasters have been declared in these states. In the last 10 years alone, the financial impact of the disasters for these states has been over $6 billion.

Legal challenges can haunt disaster survivors for years as they seek to replace legal identification papers such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards; apply for disaster benefits; and deal with insurance claims. Many survivors face a variety of other legal issues involving their housing, from preventing unlawful evictions and foreclosures to combating contractor scams. Some survivors need assistance with school transfers and transportation. Disasters have a far-reaching impact, but low-income families and individuals are most vulnerable when disaster strikes. These individuals require disaster preparedness planning support, and in the event of a disaster, they need experts who understand the legal issues involved.

The Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project is made possible by a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to expand these critical legal aid services for low-income people in preparing for and coping with disasters.” said LSC President James J. Sandman.

This project’s ultimate goal is to ensure that at-risk communities throughout the Midwest are better prepared when a disaster occurs and have access to relief programs. LSC will build on the training and expertise developed by Legal Aid of Nebraska and Iowa Legal Aid, disseminating best practices and lessons learned to other LSC grantees to construct regional response teams and inform subject matter experts.

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 133 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.