Superstorm Sandy was the deadliest hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season, causing $70 Billion in damage and 233 fatalities over the span of eight countries from the Caribbean to continental North America.¹ A snapshot of the hurricane as a Category 2 would later deem it to be the largest hurricane on record, registering a diameter of 1,150 miles of storm force winds.² Superstorm Sandy, as it became colloquially called, registers as the fourth costliest hurricane of all time according to the National Hurricane Center.³ Now, almost ten years later, history has seemed to repeat itself in the form of Hurricane Ida. Hurricane Ida also sports a fourth place finish on the National Hurricane Center database in terms of most costliest hurricanes, and with a similar spectrum of damage, comes a similar spectrum of economic and residential problems.
Hurricane Ida made landfall on the continental US in Louisiana from August 26, 2021 through September 3, 2021 and subsequently made history as one of the deadliest hurricanes ever to hit the Eastern Coast. Spawning infrastructure and residential damage in the region of billions of dollars, the hurricane also made headlines as experts worried whether the consequences of the superstorm would exacerbate the struggles of regions already bowing under the weight of the rampant COVID-19 pandemic.⁴ However, the longest lasting effects of Hurricane Ida comes in the form of loss of residential properties and lack of electrical power. While some communities dealt with a lack of power well into the September and October months, the truth remains that while there are those who had homes to return to, there remains a staggering amount of families now displaced residentially as a result of extensive home damage.
Common Legal Issues that Arise in the Aftermath of Disasters
And for many that have found themselves displaced residentially, the lack of housing is just one of various problems spawned in the wake of disaster. Families without homes can experience any assortment of short to long term unforeseen consequences. The short term can be regarding housing and document replacement needs (e.g. social security cards, birth certificates, and other essentials for document replacement, and insurance claims and utility shut offs with regards to housing problems), for example.
However, the more medium and long term issues include significant quality of life setbacks such as section 8 housing applications, contractor scams, disaster relief applications and insurance disputes. For a more complete list of possible short, medium, and long term setbacks in the wake of natural disaster, please follow this link.
With countless tenants now displaced and/or seeking retribution in aid for damages, there are resources that can help in such precarious circumstances. A natural first inclination is to check with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, commonly known as FEMA, in hopes that it will offer assistance to those that have suffered damaged or destroyed homes in the wake of Hurricane Ida. For those who have already applied for FEMA assistance, more information can still yet be found at fema.gov/disaster/hurricane-ida.
The Figuring Out FEMA pocket guide also offers helpful guidance. The resource, which can be found here, breaks down the process of enrolling in FEMA’s Individual Assistance program. It also explains how to appeal FEMA’s decision if a survivor is denied aid or needs more assistance. In New York, the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is now Tuesday, January 4, 2022. For Orange county residents, the deadline is January 31, 2022. Low-income New Yorkers seeking free legal assistance related to Hurricane Ida can call the disaster legal services hotline at 1-888-399-5459 or apply online here. LawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, also offers extensive legal help and advice in many arenas including, but not limited to, Money and Taxes, Immigration, and Public Benefits. The LawHelpNY Hurricane Ida Information Center can aid in crafting a plan of action where it intersects with a survivor’s needs, including an interactive tool to create an appeal letter to FEMA, which survivors can do on their own.
Those affected by Hurricane Ida in other states are encouraged to check FEMA’s website for registration deadlines. For those who have not applied for FEMA related assistance and/or have had a claim denied or accepted but given less money than needed, there are still other opportunities for recourse. Hurricane Ida affected multiple states in the wake of its destruction including Louisiana and multiple states in the Northeast. Those impacted by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana can turn to https://louisianalawhelp.org/issues/disaster-relief for legal help information and resources. In addition, for those affected in Pennsylvania, guidance can also be found at the Pennsylvania Law Help site.
On the other hand, for those affected by other major disasters, the National Disaster Legal Aid site, also powered by Pro Bono Net, lends a helping hand. The Disaster Legal Aid site is armed with a litany of resources, related to FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and legal aid access organizations based nationally and locally, that are useful in fighting for the rights one deserves in the wake of their lost livelihoods.
Tre Dennis-Brown is the 2021-22 AmeriCorps Vista Fellow at Pro Bono Net. Tre received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Government, with a concentration in Political Theory, from Wesleyan University in 2019. He has previously worked as a Real Estate Junior Paralegal at Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger. Economic equity is a long-time passion of Treshauxn’s, and he is now excited to be addressing justice gaps in legal deserts.
¹https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/DPM-05-2014-0082/full/html ²https://forms2.rms.com/rs/729-DJX-565/images/tc_2013_rms_modeling_sandy_storm_surge.pdf ³https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/news/UpdatedCostliest.pdf ⁴https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/08/29/hurricane-ida-could-make-louisianas-covid-19-outbreak-much-much-worse-fauci-says/?sh=1a10ee1e5649