BALS/RPPTL join to help frontline COVID-19 workers with health forms
Bay Area Legal Services and the Bar’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section are coordinating to provide free health-care surrogate and living will services to the everyday heroes whose jobs help Floridians through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the tragedies of this pandemic that we’re dealing with is that people who are our frontline workers are putting themselves at risk and most of them are not thinking about the fact they need some legal documents to help them out,” said Plant City attorney Harley Herman, a member of the section who came up with the idea for the Frontline Heroes Program.
He’s worked with the section members, Johnathan Butler and Rebecca Bell, respectively the 13th and Sixth Circuit RPPTL representatives, to help find volunteers and set up the program.
Thinking about a recent similar program for veterans who needed basic legal documents, Herman contacted Jena Hudson, coordinator of volunteer legal services for BALS, and suggested a similar effort for workers whose jobs place them at extra risk for coronavirus exposure.
The result is Frontline Heroes. Hudson said there’s another program, Wills for Heroes, that focuses on legal needs of police, firefighters, and similar first responders. The Frontline Heroes Program is for others who provide essential services — such as grocery store clerks and workers in hospitals.
“It’s awesome. Harley actually came up with the idea for it. We just kind of went with it, working with the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section,” Hudson said. “Basically, we’re doing the outreach to the community. We are also the contact person to call to set up the appointment.”
The program had test sessions on July 16 and 17. Appropriate for the pandemic age, everything was done remotely.
BALS set up the Zoom online session, with separate breakout rooms. Clients would join the Zoom session and be directed to a separate, confidential breakout room where a lawyer would help them fill out health-care surrogate and living will documents.
Those interested in regular wills were given a list of attorneys willing to help pro bono or at a reduced fee.
“The health-care surrogate forms and living wills are simple enough documents that they can be prepared as they are talking and Bay Area Le-gal Services, after they are completed, can mail them to callers with signing instructions,” Herman said.
About 30 attorneys have volunteered for the program so far, Hudson said. During the July 16 and 17 testing sessions, 11 people called in for help and were easily handled.
Each attorney, she said, was capable of handling several callers over the session and so far the biggest hindrance has been getting word out in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties — the BALS service area — that the service is available.
“We’re going to do it, hopefully, monthly,” Hudson said. “We’re going to figure a really good strategy to get the word out to those who need it.”
“It’s going to be amazing,” Hudson said. “I know there’s a demand, we just have to reach the people.”