Lewis Ritchie pulls a kayak through floodwater after delivering groceries to his father-in-law on July 28, 2022 outside Jackson in Breathitt County. (Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)
AppalRed Legal Aid will use a $1,345,226 grant to add staff to help low-income Kentuckians still trying to recover from last year’s severe storms, floods and mudslides, according to a news release from the Prestonsburg-based nonprofit.
AppalReD, or the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, is one of 14 organizations around the country sharing in $20 million of supplemental funding approved by Congress earlier this year to support natural disaster response. The awards were made by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a 49-year–old nonprofit created by Congress to support civil legal assistance to low-income people.
AppalReD will use the three-year grant to add two attorneys and two paralegals to its disaster response team.
LSC is also awarding AppalReD an additional $144,502 to compensate for already incurred costs related to the natural disasters.
“Over the past year all of us have become very aware of the long-term nature of our region’s recovery. Many of our neighbors are struggling to find affordable housing or continue to work on FEMA appeals,” said Evan Smith, AppalRed’s interim executive director.
“They are living proof of the maxim ‘recovery takes years not weeks.’ This grant will allow AppalReD Legal Aid to play an even bigger part in the ongoing response, especially as disaster survivors’ needs continue to evolve over the next three years.”
Whitney Bailey, who has served as AppalReD’s disaster resource attorney over the past year, said the grant will help the nonprofit law firm “continue supporting July 2022 disaster survivors. It can be overwhelming and frustrating for disaster survivors to navigate the FEMA appeal process, title and homeownership issues, and other civil legal matters.”
After weather disasters, victims often require immediate legal assistance to file for benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurers. They also need legal assistance to deal with landlord-tenant issues, access unemployment or apply for replacements of important documents, said the news release, which adds that disaster-caused legal issues can persist for years, including FEMA appeals, bankruptcy, predatory scams, public housing and domestic violence.
“Disaster response involves so much more than physical repairs, as millions of Americans find out each year when their home or family is impacted by one of these devastating events,” said LSC President Ron Flagg. “Legal aid providers are integral in helping low-income families access vital services and resources that set them on the path to recovery.”
The news release says AppalReD will continue outreach to those affected by the flooding and contract with the nonprofit Appalachian Citizens Law Center to enhance services in the most severely affected places.
In response to the flood, AppalReD Legal Aid and its partners launched a Flood Survivors Legal Hotline last year to address the legal needs of flood survivors and contribute to the long-term improvement of the Appalachia region. Grant funds will also be used to support this resource and to update the AppalReD and KyJustice.org websites, which will include an informational website for flood survivors with a simplified intake form.
To contact the Flood Survivors Legal Hotline call 1-844-478-0099.
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