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Hurricane Irma Recovery Information #1 - Lee County Legal Aid Society

Hurricane Irma Recovery Information #1 – Lee County Legal Aid Society

Lee County Legal Aid Society and our partner organization and friends are prepared to assist all eligible individuals in need of recovery from Hurricane Irma. Please read below for all current Hurricane Irma Recovery Resources available to residents of Lee County and beyond.

Hurricane Irma Recovery Resource #1
The Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection announces that for those with any legal needs, including landlord-tenant issues which tend to arise after disasters, especially for the LMI population, Legal Services officies around the state are open and are handling the neediest cases, even if the office does not have power.

For detailed information regarding the The Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection and the services this organization offers, visit flacp.org

The Florida Alliance For Consumer Protection is Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection is a nonprofit, nonpartisan enterprise whose mission is to advance consumer protection and tenants rights through research, education and advocacy. FLACP is a member of the Consumer Federation of America.

Hurricane Irma Recovery Resource #2
The Florida Bar Association has established a free legal aid hotline for Hurricane Irma survivors in Florida who cannot pay for an attorney. The phone number for the free hotline is 1-866-550-2929. The hotline operates through a partnership between The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Both English and Spanish voicemail recordings give instructions for callers to leave a message requesting storm-related legal assistance, and to provide their name, telephone number, county of residence, and a description of their legal problems.

Assistance through this hotline is available to qualified Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma in all Florida counties. Those who qualify will be matched with Florida lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal help such as:

  • Securing FEMA and other benefits
  • Making life, medical and property insurance claims
  • Dealing with home repair contractors
  • Replacing wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the hurricane
  • Helping with consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures
  • Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems or landlord/tenant issues

Callers can leave a message on the hotline at any time. Calls will be returned within two business days between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. There are some limitations: for example, assistance is not available for cases in which fees are paid as part of a settlement or award from a court. Such cases will be referred to a lawyer referral service. Funding for this hotline comes from FEMA under the authority of Section 415 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency assistance Act (Public Law 100-707).

Additional Resources for Floridians
Additional Florida Bar resources and information are listed at www.floridabar.org/hurricaneinfo and include:

Legal Assistance Consumer Guide – The Florida Bar’s “Mass Disaster” consumer guide provides information for consumers on whom to contact for legal assistance and how to protect their legal rights in the event of a mass disaster: linked here y en español aquí

Florida Free Legal Answers – Florida Free Legal Answers is an online advice clinic to match low-income Floridians with licensed attorneys who can answer basic legal questions at florida.freelegalanswers.org The qualifying cap has been raised temporarily so that Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma can post questions and receive answers from attorney volunteers through this Florida Bar/ABA program.

Legal Aid Assistance – Resources and volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys and information to help Floridians seeking civil legal aid are listed at this webpage.
The Florida Bar Foundation created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund for civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma and any subsequent hurricanes that make landfall in Florida.

Unethical Conduct Those who feel they have been unfairly treated by a lawyer should contact The Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 1-866-352-0707. Only Florida Bar members who are eligible to practice can give legal advice and provide legal services. If Floridians are concerned about a non-lawyer or organization giving legal advice, these consumer pamphlets provide information on “Hiring The Right Person To Help Me With My Legal Problems” and “Filing An Unlicensed Practice of Law Complaint” y en español aquí

Price Gouging – Attorney General Pam Bondi activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226). Problems with insurance companies can be directed to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-866-966-7226 or by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-800-342-2762.

Court ClosuresThe Florida Supreme Court webpage lists updates on all court closures and tolling orders.

La información anterior se encuentra disponible en espanõl en esta página web

Major Disaster Declaration
People who have sustained property damage as a result of the severe storms and flooding are urged to register with FEMA, as they may be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance. People can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone or Web-enabled device at m.fema.gov Applicants may also call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Flood survivors are also encouraged to call the FEMA hotline to report their damage. For more information on Florida’s recovery: https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma

Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available for eligible applicants. SBA helps businesses of all sizes (including landlords), private nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or damaged personal property. Disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries.

For more information, individuals may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s website at disasterloan.sba.gov.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

For more information on Florida’s recovery, visit the disaster Web page at https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma and on twitter at https://twitter.com/fema

Beware of Fraud
Both FEMA and the Florida Attorney General’s Office are warning Florida residents of the risk of fraud and common scams in the wake of the severe weather. Common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations, and fake offers of state or federal aid. Floridians are urged to ask questions and to require identification when someone claims to represent a government agency.

Survivors should also keep in mind that state and federal workers never ask for or accept money, and always carry identification badges with a photograph. There is no fee required to apply for or to receive disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), or the state. Additionally, no state or federal government disaster assistance agency will call to ask for your financial account information. Unless you place a call to the agency yourself, you should not provide personal information over the phone as it can lead to identity theft. Those who suspect fraud can call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). Complaints may also be made to the Florida Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Hotline at 866-966-7226.