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Carl Rauscher
Director of Communications and Media Relations
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LSC Awards Hurricane Grant

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 4, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC - The Legal Services Corporation has awarded an emergency grant of $80,894 to Acadiana Legal Service Corporation to provide civil legal assistance to Louisiana hurricane victims, LSC President Helaine M. Barnett announced today.

Acadiana, with headquarters in Lafayette, La., will use the grant to cover personnel costs from an increased caseload caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

"Legal assistance is a critical part of the recovery process for natural disasters, and LSC-funded programs are called upon to provide crucial legal assistance to low-income families and individuals in desperate need," Barnett said.

Joseph R. Oelkers III, executive director of Acadiana, said, "I am overjoyed that LSC has found the resources to make this grant. I am very grateful on behalf of the people who were affected by the hurricanes and who have begun and will continue to experience legal problems."

Following disasters, LSC-funded programs provide low-income Americans with legal aid on matters ranging from temporary housing, rent-gouging, evictions, foreclosures, disaster benefits, consumer fraud, and family issues that arise because of disaster-related stress.

Oelkers said the grant will permit Acadiana to hire an attorney and a paralegal to help victims of the hurricanes and to maintain legal services to clients who came to the program for help before the hurricanes roared ashore, causing deaths, property destruction, flooding and widespread power outages.

Gustav hit Louisiana on Sept. 1 and the western region of the state suffered damage from Ike, which came ashore in Texas on Sept. 13. Gustav walloped Louisiana almost three years to the day when Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. LSC-funded programs in the region have continued to handle cases related to Katrina and another 2005 hurricane, Rita.

LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal aid in the nation, providing grants to 137 programs. About 51 million Americans are eligible to receive civil legal aid from LSC-funded programs. Most are at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline, an income of $26,500 a year for a family of four.

Persons affected by Gustav and Ike are coming to Acadiana Legal Service for help, Oelkers said. Many of the cases involve damage claims on rental property or a tenant's property, an inability to keep up installment payments, disputes over shoddy workmanship or fraud involving repairs, appeals of denied federal benefits, and efforts to establish legal title to property in order to receive insurance or government benefits.

Acadiana Legal Service is part of a statewide, telephone hotline network that routes people to groups that can provide hurricane-related services. The disaster hotline is sponsored by the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, which includes the Louisiana State Bar Association and the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division as partners. The hotline number is 1-800-310-7029.