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2017 Hurricane Information

The Florida Bar will be adding information, resources and recent hurricane-related news on this page for Florida Bar members and the public. Follow social media for additional updates.

RESOURCES FOR FLORIDA BAR MEMBERS

President Higer sent a message of support and a comprehensive list of resources for Florida Bar members and other Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma.

The Florida Bar has created a system to connect Florida lawyers adversely affected by the storm with other lawyers able to assist with needs such as office space called the Florida Bar Member Disaster Recovery Connection. This system will connect members with Hurricane Irma-related needs to Florida Bar members offering assistance such as temporary housing; temporary office space; office furniture, equipment or office supplies; volunteer clean-up services; legal assistance; and other resources, services or needs not listed.

Florida Bar Member Benefits: The Florida Bar is currently working with several member benefit providers to enhance existing offerings for members affected by Hurricane Irma, including complimentary additional services or extended complimentary trial periods. Please check the special enhanced benefit page for the latest added services.

Annual dues, late fees and CLE: If you have been affected by Hurricane Irma and  have not yet paid 2017-2018 annual fees and late fees  as a Florida Bar Member, Authorized House Counsel (AHC) or Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP), the  deadline to pay has been extended from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30, 2017 . If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please call the Membership Records Department at (800) 342-8060. Also, if you have been affected by Hurricane Irma and your Florida Bar Member, AHC or FRP Continuing Legal Education Reporting Cycle ends on Sept. 30 , an extension is being granted until Oct. 30, 2017 . Email questions about CLE reporting to [email protected]

The Florida Supreme Court is posting announcements about state court closures and reopenings following Hurricane Irma on its emergency information page continually, so please check this page if you have business pending in the state courts. This page also gives web links to local courthouses so you can be sure you have the latest local information.

The Florida Office of State Courts Administrator is updating its Hurricane Irma news page with changes to meetings and conferences affected by Hurricane Irma. In addition, The Federal Courts are are posting updates about federal court closures.

The Florida Bar Foundation has been working to ensure that our statewide civil legal aid team, families, offices, and information are protected. Visit https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/storm-aid for resources and volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys, as well as information to help Floridians seeking civil legal aid. The Foundation has also created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund and approved an allocation of up to $500,000 to support Florida legal aid organizations. All donations to the fund will go directly to civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma and any subsequent hurricanes that make landfall in Florida. Read the full release here.

The Practice Resource Institute (PRI) has disaster planning information and resources for Bar members collected on one page including links to The American Bar Association disaster response, preparedness, and recovery advice; a LexisNexis publication “Surviving Disasters: Questions and Considerations for Law Firms Preparing Business Continuity Plans;” an after disaster strikes checklist; as well as links to FEMA, DisasterAssistance.gov, and disaster recovery services provided by the Florida Small Business Development Council. PRI advisers will assist members by phone during regular business hours (866-730-2020) and the live chat feature at pri.floridabar.org is active. In addition, members may email for assistance: [email protected].

Florida Free Legal Answers: Although attorneys are strongly cautioned against engaging in the solicitation of hurricane victims (which is prohibited by Rule 4-7.18), the Florida Free Legal Answers program offers a relatively easy way to lend your expertise. It is easy to do, takes only a couple of minutes and can mean so much to those in need. Not only can you help answer questions from those affected by Hurricane Irma but, as a result of a Texas Supreme Court order, you also can help those still recovering in Texas from Hurricane Harvey, through February 2018 when the order is set to expire.

Florida Bar Foundation allocates up to $500K for hurricane civil legal aid

Puerto Rican Bar of Fla. relocating displaced Puerto Rican law students

RESOURCES FOR FLORIDA CONSUMERS

Legal Assistance Hotline: Floridians who are Hurricane Irma survivors who cannot pay for an attorney may call the hotline (866) 550-2929 or complete an online form.

The ABA has now added a legal assistance hotline for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. To access help from volunteer lawyers, disaster victims should call 1-800-310-7029, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., (Central time) Monday through Friday (messages can be left after hours).

Assistance through the hotline and the form is available to Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma in all Florida counties. The requestor 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

The hotline operates through a partnership between The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Read the full release for more information.
(La información anterior se encuentra disponible en español en esta página web.)

Florida Free Legal Answers is an online advice clinic to match low-income Floridians with licensed attorneys who can answer basic legal questions at florida.freelegalanswers.org. The qualifying cap has been raised temporarily so that Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma can post questions and receive answers from attorney volunteers through this Florida Bar/ABA program.

A disaster assistance legal clinic is planned for Thursday, Sept. 21, 9-11 a.m., at The Sunshine Center, 330 5th Street N, St. Petersburg. Assistance in Spanish is available. Gulfcoast Legal Services, in partnership with Stetson University College of Law, is holding the free legal clinic to help Pinellas County residents to apply for FEMA disaster assistance. Attorneys will be available to answer questions regarding residents’ rights in legal matters such as FEMA assistance, landlord-tenant issues, public benefits, consumer protection/scams and domestic violence. Bring your Social Security number, address where any damage occurred, a description of disaster-caused damage and losses, your current mailing address, telephone number, insurance information, total household annual income, and the routing and account number for your checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into your bank account). For more information or to register, call (727) 821-0726

Unlawful Solicitations: Florida citizens should use caution and good judgment in any emergency, particularly when dealing with representatives of insurance companies or direct contact from lawyers. Any contact by a lawyer or a lawyer’s representative in person or by telephone asking to handle a specific case is a direct violation of The Florida Bar’s disciplinary rules, unless the injured party has requested contact from the lawyer. Only a lawyer can give legal advice and provide legal services. Florida Bar rules also prohibit lawyers from writing or emailing within 30 days of an accident unless they have been specifically asked to provide information. To report an unlawful contact or the unlicensed practice of law, please contact The Florida Bar at (866) 352-0707.

Legal Complaints: If you feel you have been unfairly treated by a lawyer, contact The Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at (866) 352-0707. The Florida Bar is responsible for prosecuting unethical lawyers for sanctions to be imposed by the Supreme Court of Florida.

“Mass Disaster” Consumer Pamphlet: The Florida Bar’s consumer pamphlet for victims of mass disasters provides guidance for consumers on who to contact for legal assistance and how to protect their legal rights, read more here. (En español aquí.) The Bar also has pamphlets on “Homeowners’ Insurance” and “Rights And Duties Of Tenants And Landlords” that could offer important information to people affected by the storm.

The Florida Bar Foundation has been working to ensure that our statewide civil legal aid team, families, offices, and information are protected. Visit https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/storm-aid for resources and volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys, as well as information to help Floridians seeking civil legal aid. The Foundation also has created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund and approved an allocation of up to $500,000 to support Florida legal aid organizations. All donations to the fund will go directly to civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma and any subsequent hurricanes that make landfall in Florida.

FEMA: To assist people and businesses in the recovery process, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may open Disaster Recovery Centers. You can search for centers on FEMA’s website. You should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center. A FEMA app is available for Apple and Android mobile devices. To download, go to: fema.gov/mobile-app. There are instructions on how to file your claim here.

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans to businesses, renters, and homeowners located in regions affected by declared disasters. Visit its disaster assistance page to find out more.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support small businesses impacted by Hurricane Irma. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm. The application period is from Sept. 14, 2017 through Oct. 31, 2017. Read the full release for more information. For more updates from the Governor’s Office, visit this website.

Attorney General Pam Bondi activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida. State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment, needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Anyone who suspects price gouging during this declared state of emergency should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM.

The Florida Offices of Insurance Regulation provides an insurance resources webpage with useful information and links including consumer alerts, links to other state agencies and hurricane claims data information. Call the insurance consumer hotline (877) 693-5236.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available to Florida businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a result of Hurricane Irma. DUA is available from weeks of unemployment beginning Sept. 10, 2017 until ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­March 17, 2018, as long as the individual’s unemployment continues to be a result of the disaster. To file a DUA claim, go to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website or call (800) 385-3920.

Miami State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has provided a video program titled “How To Avoid Becoming a Victim After The Storm” on the State Attorney’s Office website www.miamisao.com. This office has also provided an email address for those reporting price gouging: [email protected].

Other Disaster Resources: As Floridians prepared for Hurricane Irma, The Florida Bar shared helpful disaster resources for Florida consumers.

VOLUNTEER INFORMATION

The Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida is using its Scholarship Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax deductible institution, to raise money for the incidental costs of the immediate relocation of Puerto Rican law students who were displaced in their studies as a result of Hurricane Maria.  Through the organization’s Student Temporary Assistance and Relocation “STAR” program, four U.S. schools, including Florida State University, have begun the process of helping to transition 51 University of Puerto Rico Law School students who were affected by the storm. Donations will be used to fill some of the gaps that other organizations or charities may not be able to fill, such as books, laptop computers, meal plans, clothing, travel and housing. Checks for the Scholarship Fund can be mailed to 517 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32806. You can also make your contribution securely via this PayPal link. For more information contact the  The Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida.

The University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law has established an Emergency Relief Fund to assist its students and personnel affected by hurricane Maria. For additional information, contact Dean Vivian Neptune-Rivera [email protected].

The Tampa Hispanic Bar is posting ways to help victims of Hurricane Maria on their Twitter account. Please visit their page for more information.

The Florida Bar YLD, working in conjunction with the ABA Young Lawyers Section, is asking for volunteers to assist by returning calls placed to the YLD’s FEMA 1-800 hotline or at FEMA centers. Volunteers provide basic legal services for low-income individuals in non-fee generating cases. The most pressing need is for volunteers to return calls. To volunteer, complete this form and review the  FEMA Disaster Assistance Manual for Legal Services Advocates. The types of legal questions most frequently asked will involve landlord/tenant and other housing problems, consumer protection matters, and home repair contracts. For more information, visit the YLD FEMA page.

Florida Free Legal Answers: Although attorneys are strongly cautioned against engaging in the solicitation of hurricane victims (which is prohibited by Rule 4-7.18), the Florida Free Legal Answers program offers a relatively easy way to lend your expertise. The Bar also requested, and was granted, a temporary increase of the qualifying cap so that all Floridians can access this program. If you are already a volunteer, please subscribe to the “Hurricane Irma” category to receive email alerts when questions are posted. Not only can you help answer questions from those bracing for Hurricane Irma’s impact but, as a result of a Texas Supreme Court order, you also can help those still recovering in Texas from Hurricane Harvey,  through February 2018 when the order is set to expire.

The Florida Bar Foundation has been working to ensure that our statewide civil legal aid team, families, offices, and information are protected. Visit https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/storm-aid for resources and volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys, as well as information to help Floridians seeking civil legal aid. The Foundation also has created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund and approved an allocation of up to $500,000 to support Florida legal aid organizations. All donations to the fund will go directly to civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma and any subsequent hurricanes that make landfall in Florida. Read the full release here.

Florida Pro Bono Matters is another way to assist Floridians via an interactive website funded by The Florida Bar Foundation — both in hurricane recovery and year-round. You can view descriptions of available pro bono opportunities and indicate an interest in any of them; you then will be contacted by the posting organization with more information.

Government and Other Services

FEMA: 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 may also call (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 (TTY) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Flood survivors also are encouraged to call the FEMA hotline to report their damage. For more information on Florida’s recovery, visit the disaster Web page at www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma and on Twitter at twitter.com/fema.

SBA: 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 at (800) 659-2955, email [email protected], or visit SBA’s website at disasterloan.sba.gov. People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339.

Florida Governor Scott: Latest announcements on state of Florida disaster response.

Attorney General Bondi: Information on price gouging and other consumer protection issues.

Hurricane Claims Data Information: Check the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for useful information and links, including consumer alerts, links to other state agencies and hurricane claims data information.

Florida County Emergency Management Contacts

Florida Department of Health Hurricane Information

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Missing Persons Registries