A toll-free legal aid hotline is now available for victims of Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina. The service, which allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer, is a partnership between the North Carolina Bar Association, Legal Aid of North Carolina, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Low-income survivors facing legal issues may call 1-800-662-7407, the assistance hotline activated by the North Carolina Bar Association. Callers should identify that they are seeking Hurricane Matthew-related legal assistance, ask for Disaster Legal Services, and should identify the county in which they are located. Survivors who qualify for assistance will be matched with North Carolina lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal help.
Examples of legal assistance available include:
· Assistance with securing FEMA and other benefits available to disaster survivors
· Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims
· Help with home repair contracts and contractors
· Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster
· Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures
· Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems
· Counseling on landlord/tenant problems
The hotline is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with North Carolina lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help. Survivors should be aware that there are some limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where fees are paid part of the settlement by the court). Such cases are referred to a lawyer referral service.
Major Disaster Declaration
A total of 14 North Carolina counties have been approved to receive federal assistance in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The counties are Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Hoke, Johnston, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, Robeson, Wayne and Wilson (additional counties may be added later).
People who sustained property damage as a result of Hurricane Matthew 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 may also call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Hurricane survivors are also encouraged to call the FEMA hotline to report their damage. Other resources may be found on http://www.legalaidnc.org/about-us/news/Pages/Response-to-Hurricane-Matthew.aspx
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, individuals may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting SBA’s website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.
For more information on North Carolina’s recovery, visit the disaster Web page at https://www.fema.gov/disaster/3380, Twitter at https://twitter.com/femaregion4 and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety website, http://www.ncdps.gov/
Beware of Fraud
Both FEMA and the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office are warning North Carolina residents of the risk of fraud and common scams in the wake of the severe weather. Common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations, and fake offers of state or federal aid. North Carolinians are urged to ask questions, and to require identification when someone claims to represent a government agency.
Survivors should also keep in mind that state and federal workers never ask for or accept money, and always carry identification badges with a photograph. There is no fee required to apply for or to receive disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), or the state. Additionally, no state or federal government disaster assistance agency will call to ask for your financial account information. Unless you place a call to the agency yourself, you should not provide personal information over the phone as it can lead to identity theft.
Those who suspect fraud can call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). Complaints may also be made to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-877-566-7226.