The high waters of the Missouri River almost cover figures in the Monument to Labor statue in Omaha on March 16, 2019. (AP)
Attorneys Needed to Help Flood Victims
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
Nebraska attorneys are being asked to give their time, knowledge and expertise in service of their neighbors across the state struggling in the aftermath of historic flooding last month.
The Nebraska State Bar Association is teaming up with Legal Aid of Nebraska and the American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers project to ensure that Nebraskans of all income levels are able to access critical legal advice.
Attorneys are being asked to sign up with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, which will take on cases for clients who don’t meet Legal Aid of Nebraska’s income guidelines.
“What I’m encouraging Nebraska lawyers to do is to contact the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Nebraska State Bar Association,” said J. Scott Paul, the association’s president. “That would be the way that we would suggest that they volunteer.”
Shirley Peng, managing attorney for Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Disaster Relief, said the nonprofit’s volunteers help clients who make up to 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Others seeking assistance will be referred to the Volunteer Lawyers Project, which will take cases up to 250 percent of poverty guidelines, or the Free Legal Answers project website.
“We have gotten a pretty good reception,” Peng said. “We would just love to have more attorneys.”
Common legal challenges after a disaster include insurance issues, government benefits, housing negotiations, contractor fraud issues and documenting recovery, according to Legal Aid of Nebraska.
Peng said she expects many applications for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will end up with appeals and lengthy claims processes.
“There are just a lot of people who are overwhelmed by the flooding,” Peng said. “They just need guidance, so having attorneys available who can help them through this crisis is just so important.”
Peng said the work should be steady for months, as claims are made and work begins on recovery. But that need won’t go away, and some cases will stretch well past 2019.
“It is going to take years for people to rebuild their lives,” Peng said. “These cases will be open for a long time.”
Anyone seeking legal advice related to the flooding can contact Legal Aid of Nebraska’s toll-free disaster hotline at 1-844-268-5627. The hotline is staffed Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 3 p.m. as well as Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. Details can be found at disaster.legalaidofnebraska.org.
Attorneys interested in giving time can contact the Nebraska Volunteer Lawyers Project at VLP@nebar.com or 402-475- 7091. Legal Aid of Nebraska accepts volunteer sign-ups on its disaster recovery website. Volunteer with Free Legal Answers.