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For Immediate Release:
July 12, 2019
Baton Rouge, LA—As hurricane season begins, Tropical Storm Barry threatens to bring myriad civil legal problems for Louisiana residents, from accessing critical disaster assistance to securing temporary housing to handling insurance claims. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services will be there to provide advice and assistance but residents should act now to ensure that they have accessible documents and pictures of them and everything in their home before a natural disaster arrives. A few simple actions can help to avoid legal problems later.
First, residents should take photographs of everything, including their home, belongings, pets, and important documents. This will help with insurance and FEMA claims. Then, residents should upload the photographs to a secure location and email them to themselves and put the camera in a watertight container.
Preparation for disasters is key.
Residents should review the title to their property to make sure that ownership is clear and unencumbered before disasters happen, and to try to remedy any title issues that might exist before they become a stumbling block to recovery in the aftermath.
Residents should place their and their family members’ most important records and documents in a safe place. Keep them in a large sealable plastic bag or other watertight container and keep them nearby – possibly in their vehicle, along with a to-go bag with essentials that they would need if they had to quickly evacuate. Residents should be sure to make copies of these documents and store them in a safe secondary location, such as a safe deposit box.
What documents should be gathered? Items include:
Account numbers for credit card, checking, and savings accounts
Bank and utility records
Bills that will be needed to pay, like credit cards or utility bills
Deeds and rental agreements
Divorce and custody decrees
Insurance, proof of (e.g. homeowners, renters, flood, earthquake, auto, life, health, disability, long-term care; have at least the policy number and insurance company contact information for each type of coverage)
Medical records, including copies or photographs of medical prescriptions
Military discharge records
Passports, immigration paperwork such as green cards, work authorization, or naturalization papers
Pet records (medical and vaccination records for pets along with current photos and ID chip numbers in case of separation)
Powers of attorney including medical powers of attorney
Social Security card
Tax returns (First two pages of previous year’s federal and state tax returns)
Vehicle title and registration and proof of insurance
Wills and estate planning documents
Residents should start with the most important and most difficult items and property to replace and visit http://bit.ly/HelpfulDisasterResources or contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (225) 448-0331 for more information.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) fights for fairness in the justice system. We provide free legal services to low-income people across 22 parishes in Southeast Louisiana. We work every day to protect domestic violence victims from abuse, stand for the rights of abused and neglected children, preserve housing for hard-working families, end homelessness for people with disabilities and veterans, protect elderly consumers, remove barriers to medical care, improve access to employment and education for vulnerable people, and so much more.
Mr. and Mrs. Trahan lived with Mrs. Trahan’s mother in north Baton Rouge. In 2015, they inherited the house after Mrs. Trahan’s mother passed away. Although they managed to survive on a small income from Mr. Trahan’s disability benefits and Mrs. Trahan’s part-time job, they lived check-to-check and were unable to put much into savings. Tragically, Mr. and Mrs. Trahan’s house was among the +60,000 houses destroyed by the 2016 Louisiana Floods. Fortunately, they were safe but they had no savings to help them rebuild. The Trahans received short-term temporary FEMA rental assistance but on their limited income, and still needing to pay monthly mortgage payments on their home, they struggled to keep their home out of foreclosure.
To make the situation worse, the flood insurance company refused to release the flood proceeds until a succession was completed for Mrs. Trahan’s mother. Then, FEMA denied an extension of their temporary rental assistance. The Trahans felt lost. If they lost both their temporary and permanent housing, they would have nowhere to turn and end up on the streets. Luckily, they were referred to the Flood Proof Project for legal help where an SLLS attorney quickly jumped into action.
We began working on the succession right away and got some of the other heirs to donate their interest in the home to help the couple concentrate title. Then, we got FEMA to overturn its decision to deny the couples extension for temporary rental assistance. Additionally, we negotiated with their mortgage and insurance companies to assert the Trahan’s legal rights as an heir to the property. In the end, the couple was approved to take over the mortgage and modify their loan payments after the succession was completed. While the Restore Louisiana program has yet to give the Trahan’s additional funding to rebuild, all of their legal problems were resolved and given them a little more peace of mind.
Click above to read about SLLS’ disaster recovery work in “Our flooded neighbors need a hand, New Orleans: Editorial” from The Times Picayune.
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Laura Tuggle (504) 529-1000 ext. 270 or email@example.com
Flood Proof Project Helps Disaster Survivors Recover
BATON ROUGE, La—As the one year anniversary of last year’s devastating August 2016 flood approaches, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) and its “Flood Proof” project partners are pleased to announce that 106 disaster impacted homeowners have been assisted to unlock $3,045,763 in flood recovery funding or other economic benefits. “Flood Proof’s” goal is to help survivors living in their property informally passed down to them after the death of a loved one, get the legal proof they need to show they own their home. Such proof is often a requirement to receive federal recovery funds, insurance proceeds, loans, and other rebuilding resources. The project provides free legal services to eligible homeowners living in East Baton Rouge, Ascension, and Livingston parishes whose homes were flooded. Another 154 families still have pending cases.
“While we have made progress in helping move our community forward, we still have a long way to go”, said SLLS Executive Director Laura Tuggle. “Though it has been almost a year since the flood wreaked havoc, it seems like yesterday for thousands of people who still have been unable to rebuild. Due to the generous support of our funders, volunteers, and community stakeholders, we plan to continue the project to help as many vulnerable families as possible get the help they need to recover.”
Support for the project is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Equal Justice Works, and the Louisiana Bar Foundation. Project partners include SLLS, Louisiana Appleseed, Southern University Law Center, the Baton Rouge Bar Association, the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, and the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Innovation.
Since its inception last fall, “Flood Proof” has participated in 84 outreach events reaching 4,900 survivors. Three events are planned this week:
August 10, 2017 5:30pm-8:00pm Baker Municipal Center, 3325 Groom Rd. Baker, La 70714
August 12, 2017 9:00 am-12:00pmDenham Springs Junior High School 401 Hatchell Ln.
Denham Springs, LA 70726
August 12, 2017 9:00 am-4 p.m. Arsenal Park, 930 N 7th St. Baton Rouge, LA 70802
To make it easier for survivors to access free legal help, the “Flood Proof” app was created. The app is available for download on Android and Apple phones.
We are excited to announce it is now available online at https://floodproofapp.org.
We are grateful to the ABA Center for Innovation and Stanford University for their support in creating the app.
A new video made possible by the ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness explaining the app and how we are making a difference in the lives of survivors is at https://vimeo.com/226507610/6ea3ec8103.
Disaster impacted families needing free legal help to prove ownership of their homes to help them recover from the flood, can call 1-844-244-7871, download the app, visit the website, or come out to outreach events.
SLLS also provides free civil legal services with other kinds of disaster-related problems impacting survivors like FEMA appeals, foreclosure prevention, contractor disputes, landlord-tenant problems, and family law matters.