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Disaster Relief Project awarded $4.8M grant
We are a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.

Disaster Relief Project awarded $4.8M grant

​Record-breaking federal grant means more free legal help for Florence survivors

RALEIGH · January 29, 2020—North Carolinians still struggling to recover from Hurricane Florence will now have a much better shot at getting free legal help thanks to a record-breaking, $4.8 million federal grant to Legal Aid of North Carolina's Disaster Relief Project.

The Legal Services Corporation announced the grant December 17 as one of 12 it awarded to civil legal aid groups in 11 states. Our grant was the largest of the 12, the largest ever awarded by LSC outside of its regular annual grant cycle, and one of the largest we have ever received outside of that cycle.

Located in Washington, D.C., the Legal Services Corporation is our country's leading funder of civil legal aid groups, providing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in federal funds to organizations in every state and territory in the nation. Civil legal aid groups are nonprofit law firms that provide free legal help in civil cases—i.e., non-criminal cases—to low-income people. Cases typically involve housing, domestic violence, consumer rights, public benefits and more.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is our state's sole recipient of LSC funds, which usually account for nearly half of our annual budget.

The funding for our $4.8 million disaster relief grant originated in the $19.1 billion Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019, a federal spending package approved in June. As part of the package, Congress directed $15 million to LSC to fund free legal help for survivors of natural disasters that occurred between 2017 and 2019, including Hurricane Florence.

"I'm pleased that Legal Aid of North Carolina will receive a $4.8 million grant to provide legal services and coordinate support for victims of recent natural disasters," U.S. Rep. David Price (NC-4) said. "As North Carolina's only appropriator, I've focused on ensuring our state receives the resources needed to recover from major storms and flooding. It takes years to fully rebuild, and I'm glad Legal Aid of North Carolina will be there to help our citizens navigate the process."

"We continue to keep our promise by providing valuable assistance to the North Carolinians still rebuilding from some of our most disastrous storms," U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (NC-6) said. "The millions headed to our state will provide direct legal services to survivors, outreach clinics, and further coordination with other disaster partners. Recovery is a team sport and I could not be prouder of the collaborations with our neighborhoods, organizations, churches, local officials, and the federal government working in partnership to restore our communities."

"Legal services providers are a critical component of comprehensive disaster relief for survivors facing wrongful evictions, denials of insurance claims and benefits, and consumer scams," LSC President James J. Sandman said.

"We are deeply grateful to LSC for providing us with this funding," George R. Hausen, Jr., executive director of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said. "These new funds will fuel our ongoing work to hasten and improve the recovery and long-term economic chances of thousands of families in Eastern North Carolina. This part of our state has long suffered deep poverty, food insecurity, and diminished economic opportunity due to systemic inequality exacerbated by recurring natural disasters and the erratic and consistently underfunded recovery efforts that follow."

"Though Florence struck more than a year ago, this funding is as vitally important now as it has ever been," said Lesley Albritton, managing attorney of the Disaster Relief Project. "Important legal issues can crop up long after a natural disaster, so it is crucial for legal aid to be part of a strong, long-term plan for a full and just recovery. This LSC grant ensures that Florence survivors will have access to critical legal help for years to come."

LSC's grant will allow us to more than triple the size of our Disaster Relief Project. The project's staff will increase from 11 people (nine attorneys and two paralegals) to 38 people (26 attorneys, 10 paralegals and two intake specialists). The new attorneys will serve two-year fellowships in our Greenville and Pembroke offices, and in a new office that we are opening in Rocky Mount.

Legal Aid of North Carolina's Disaster Relief Project provides free legal help to survivors of natural disasters. Its cases involve appealing denials of FEMA benefits, landlord-tenant issues, insurance claims, consumer scams, replacing important government documents (birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc.), and more.

In addition to providing direct legal help to survivors, project staff also:

  • Serve on the North Carolina Disaster Recovery Task Force, a multi-agency group convened by the Emergency Management division of the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Legal Aid's role on the task force is, in partnership with other agencies and organizations, to implement the housing section of the Disaster Recovery Framework, the state's all-encompassing plan for responding to natural disasters. Legal Aid is responsible for handling cases involving public housing admissions and evictions, and terminations of housing subsidies, like Section 8 housing vouchers.

  • Initiate the Disaster Legal Services program immediately after a disaster in partnership with the North Carolina Bar Association, the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division and FEMA. The program establishes a statewide hotline that survivors can call to get legal help from Legal Aid attorneys and pro bono lawyers;

  • Embed in FEMA's Disaster Recovery Centers to provide know-your-rights materials to survivors, answer legal questions and spread the word about the availability of free legal services;

  • Curate and create content, including legal education videos in English and Spanish, on the Disaster Relief section of our website.

To learn more about our Disaster Relief Project's response to Hurricane Florence, read Disaster Legal Tech: Strategies for Providing Legal Information to Survivors in the Touro Law Review.

Lesley Albritton, managing attorney of the Disaster Relief Project, received a Leaders in the Law award from North Carolina Lawyers Weekly last year for the project's response to Hurricane Florence.

Survivors of natural disasters who need legal help can call our toll-free statewide helpline, 1-866-219-LANC (5262), or submit an online application at www.legalaidnc.org/apply.

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About

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Media Contact

Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, 919-856-2132, seand@legalaidnc.org

 

FACT SHEET: Hurricane Florence by the numbers

9th

Florence's ranking in the list of most destructive hurricanes to hit the U.S. Source

83 mph

Highest land-based sustained wind speed. Measured Sept. 14 at Cape Lookout, N.C. Source

36 in.

Maximum total rainfall. Measured in Elizabethtown, N.C. Source

43 deaths

Official North Carolina death toll. Source

$24 billion

Estimate of wind and water damage caused by Florence, according to NOAA. Source

$1.1 billion

Early estimate of agricultural losses in North Carolina. Source

74,563

Estimated number of structures that flooded in North Carolina. Source

1 million

North Carolinians who lost power. Source

34 counties

Approved for individual assistance by FEMA. Source

28 counties

Approved for individual assistance by FEMA after Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew. Sources: Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Matthew

3.8 million

North Carolinians living in the 34 counties eligible for individual assistance from FEMA, more than a third of the entire state population. Source

1.4 million

Low-income residents of the 34 counties eligible for individual assistance from FEMA. Low-income defined as living at or under 200% of the federal poverty line. Source

140,000

North Carolinians who registered for disaster assistance. Source

34,709

Applications for individual assistance approved by FEMA. Source

$133,674,502

Individual assistance funds approved by FEMA. Source

 

Poverty in the 34 counties hardest hit by Hurricane Florence

Population and poverty statistics for the 34 counties designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance following Hurricane Florence

County

Total
population

Number in poverty

Percent in poverty

Number below 200% of poverty

Percent below 200% of poverty

North Carolina

9,881,292

1,523,949

15.4%

3,513,670

35.6%

Anson

23,469

4,647

19.8%

11,049

47.1%

Beaufort

46,721

8,966

19.2%

20,020

42.9%

Bladen

33,290

8,649

26.0%

17,238

51.8%

Brunswick

125,787

16,201

12.9%

39,162

31.1%

Carteret

67,559

7,831

11.6%

20,445

30.3%

Chatham

68,973

8,241

11.9%

20,263

29.4%

Columbus

53,198

12,666

23.8%

25,575

48.1%

Craven

97,756

14,915

15.3%

34,274

35.1%

Cumberland

316,425

57,620

18.2%

131,934

41.7%

Duplin

58,382

14,056

24.1%

31,004

53.1%

Durham

292,926

46,805

16.0%

97,154

33.2%

Greene

18,635

4,781

25.7%

9,054

48.6%

Guilford

506,440

80,771

15.9%

185,761

36.7%

Harnett

126,783

21,495

17.0%

50,436

39.8%

Hoke

51,554

10,823

21.0%

22,365

43.4%

Hyde

4,761

1,062

22.3%

2,065

43.4%

Johnston

189,205

25,213

13.3%

66,433

35.1%

Jones

9,655

2,526

26.2%

4,979

51.6%

Lee

59,157

9,538

16.1%

24,229

41.0%

Lenoir

55,958

12,844

23.0%

26,894

48.1%

Moore

94,456

11,863

12.6%

27,493

29.1%

New Hanover

217,333

37,602

17.3%

75,340

34.7%

Onslow

173,402

23,880

13.8%

68,738

39.6%

Orange

131,789

17,633

13.4%

38,094

28.9%

Pamlico

12,007

1,696

14.1%

4,748

39.5%

Pender

57,752

8,709

15.1%

18,223

31.6%

Pitt

170,510

40,737

23.9%

74,453

43.7%

Richmond

43,638

10,503

24.1%

21,407

49.1%

Robeson

129,821

36,504

28.1%

71,131

54.8%

Sampson

62,674

15,084

24.1%

30,086

48.0%

Scotland

32,625

9,030

27.7%

16,916

51.8%

Union

223,824

19,921

8.9%

53,391

23.9%

Wayne

120,644

25,847

21.4%

54,173

44.9%

Wilson

79,774

17,141

21.5%

34,774

43.6%

TOTAL

3,756,883

645,800

17.2%

1,429,301

38.0%

Note: All figures reflect the population for whom the Census Bureau could determine poverty status. Actual figures may be higher.

Sources