A legal aid hotline is now available for Hurricane Michael survivors in Florida who cannot pay for an attorney: 1-866-550-2929. The hotline operates through a partnership including 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 Michael in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington 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.
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 www.florida.freelegalanswers.org. A temporary increase of the qualifying cap will allow more Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael to 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 https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/storm-aid. The Florida Bar Foundation created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund for civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael 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.
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 Closures – The Florida Supreme Court webpage lists updates on all court closures and tolling orders.
Major Disaster Declaration
The full list of counties covered for FEMA Assistance to Individuals and Households (IA) is currently: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington (additional counties may be added later).
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 also may 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/disaster/4399
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, contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting SBA’s website at disasterloan.sba.gov. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.