Bank of New York Mellon Volunteers Help Victims of Hurricane Maria at City Bar Justice Center January FEMA Appeals Clinic
by Erika Lawrenson January 25, 2018
The City Bar hosted the fourth FEMA Appeals Clinic on January 22, 2018 to assist victims of the 2017 hurricane disasters with FEMA-related matters. Nine volunteer attorneys from Bank of New York Mellon’s legal department and one solo attorney teamed up to lend a hand to nine clients in-person and via telephone. In total, at least twenty family members benefited from the free legal assistance. All of the clients were displaced to New York after the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Most of the clients had been denied benefits by FEMA and required legal assistance from the group of pro bono lawyers to understand the appeals process and their options.
One client had fallen victim to identity theft. In that case, BNY Mellon attorneys worked with him to determine the best course of action going forward and contacted FEMA directly in an attempt to rectify the situation. The client will have to take additional prolonged steps to receive the benefits he is entitled to, but was grateful for the guidance provided to him. Another client is fighting to obtain additional funding to repair her home, replace her car and obtain medical benefits for her autistic child who suffered emotional and physical distress during the hurricane. Another pair of BNY Mellon lawyers successfully advocated on the phone with FEMA to permit an appeal outside of the 60 day period. The team then worked with City Bar Justice Center supervising attorney, Ramona Morel, to identify supporting documentation and the nature of the claims in order to supplement and strengthen the appeals. Three FEMA appeals were drafted for this client and filed the next day with photos and other supporting evidence from the client.
Pro bono attorneys called clients on the waiting list for the clinic to determine if they had an issue on which the FEMA Appeals Clinic could help. Another client was learning from her pro bono attorneys what she could salvage from her losses related to a small business that was flooded in Puerto Rico. The Kaye Room at City Bar was a hive of activity as volunteers reached FEMA representatives on the telephone and advocated for families.
The City Bar is grateful to the nearly fifty volunteers who have contributed to the past four clinics during this winter season. By answering the call for pro bono service, the volunteers at the City Bar FEMA Appeals Clinics aided over twenty clients and many more in their extended families and made New York City a more welcoming place for families displaced by disaster. While this is small proportion of those affected by last season’s natural disasters, it has proven once again that the legal community will enthusiastically come together during times of crises to support those in need.
If you have any questions regarding the FEMA Appeals Clinics, please contact Erika Lawrenson.
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