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As we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, the BP Oil Spill, the 2016 Louisiana floods, and other crises, SLLS will rise to the challenge of meeting the Hurricane Ida disaster-related legal needs of low-income people. Our entire twenty-two parish southeast Louisiana service area is still reeling from the impact of this catastrophic Category 4 storm. While the future of our impacted communities and the people we serve is unclear, one thing that is certain is that SLLS is on the ground to provide a critical lifetime during this new crisis. The levees held and so will SLLS.
Our 125 staff and their families report being physically safe - though like the rest of the region - the vast majority have no electricity, no internet, no or spotty phone service, and varying degrees of damage to their homes. Many live in parishes where there is no water, sewerage problems, and if evacuated, are being urged not to return home to "primitive conditions" which could last for weeks or longer. The condition of our Houma and St. Charles parish offices is unclear - we imagine they will both be hard hit. We expect the most devastating long-term impacts for the people we serve to be centered in Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. John, and St. Charles parishes with other significant impacts across our twenty-two parishes.
SLLS will need to help them appeal FEMA claims, grapple with shady contractors, file successions so they can obtain insurance or FEMA benefits, to untangle bureaucratic snags in obtaining disaster unemployment benefits, to tackle illegal evictions, fight for the rights of tenants to get repairs, protect homeowners from foreclosure, combat increased domestic violence, and more.
That work has already begun through our already active Disaster & COVID-19 Legal Helpline and by evacuated staff continuing to work remotely to answer the panicked calls we are getting from shell shocked disaster survivors, sweltering in the life-threatening heat. We are posting disaster tips through our social media and have planned a Facebook Live presentation on FEMA claims for next week. We hope to have several SLLS offices open within the next few days as power is restored in portions of our service area.
Low-income families and communities of color are always disproportionately impacted by disaster. It is critical that SLLS has the resources it needs to quickly fight for fairness for the people we serve. We have established our Hurricane Ida Disaster Legal Relief Fund and hope you can consider supporting our work.
As we have done in the past, we will get through this together. Thank you for your support of SLLS - it is critical to all we do for the families and communities we serve as we rise to meet the urgent new demands wrought by Hurricane Ida.
Many generous advocates are joining our 50 More Years Campaign members as "Circle of Justice" members, showing their dedication to fighting for equal access to civil justice for the next 50 years. The Circle of Justice is a new giving circle composed of some of the strongest supporters of civil legal aid. Individuals join the Circle of Justice by making a $1000 donation to SLLS (through a one-time donation or through monthly installments.)
Circle of Justice Members will be recognized throughout 2020 and 2021 in a number of ways, including: Recognition in the 2020 SLLS Annual Report; Invitation for two for a special patron cocktail party for Circle of Justice donors; and Quarterly Circle of Justice Donor Updates.