Our segment on NY1.

We are really excited to publicly launch femaappeals.org, a website that empowers those who do not have access to a lawyer to create their own concise and well-crafted appeals of FEMA denials. Over 500,000 households in New York and New Jersey applied for emergency assistance from FEMA following Superstorm Sandy – almost half of them have incomes of less than $30,000 per year. Many of these people have been improperly denied benefits they desperately need, but are unable to get a lawyer to guide them through the complicated appeals process.  With substantive help from numerous partners across New York City, and the support of the New York Community Trust, we’ve created a one-stop website for people to learn about the appeals process, create their own appeal, and find further resources.

Over the past months at Pro Bono Net, we’ve put together resources and information to aid pro bono attorneys engaged in helping those whose lives were turned upside down by Superstorm Sandy. We’ve done our best to foster collaboration in the legal relief effort, and it’s been an amazing experience to watch nonprofits, law firms, law schools, bar associations, and corporate counsel come together in unprecedented ways. But for all the resource assembling, conference call convening, webinar producing, live training webcasting, and more that we’ve done, we realize that the legal community simply does not have the capacity to address the needs of so many who are still struggling in Sandy’s wake.

We designed femaappeals.org to be straightforward and easy to navigate, getting users straight to the content they need. The front page contains a no fuss description of exactly what the site does – assists individuals to create a FEMA Appeal letter and request their FEMA file.  An FAQ page contains answers drafted by an expert to many common questions, demystifying the appeals process. A calendar of upcoming disaster-relief legal clinics, maintained by our partners at LawHelpNY, lists options for seeking further help across the area.

The heart of the site is the interactive A2J Author® interview that guides users, step-by-step and in everyday language, through assembling the information necessary for an appeal.

And through the magic of technology (i.e., the LawHelp Interactive national online document assembly server), this information is transformed into perfectly formatted Word documents that the user can submit to FEMA.  The whole interview can be completed in 10-15 minutes.





We’re now doing our best to widely promote this resource so that folks across the disaster area are aware. Our press release has gone out to online, print and television media in NY and NJ, and we are now sending it to area boroughs, municipalities, townships, public libraries, and direct social service providers as well. Last week, NY1 (New York City’s 24 hour newchannel) came by to film a segment:

Despite my clear onscreen charisma and talent for pointing at computer monitors, however, someone else got all the airtime.
But it’s all for the same cause, right? Executive Director, Mark O’Brien.

The piece began running April 12, and is available online now We really appreciate all the support we’ve received around this project, and we’re hopeful it will have a big impact. While the site and interview are currently tailored to Superstorm Sandy, they will be easily adaptable for use in future disasters.

After you link on your website, please drop us a line if you have ideas about further ways to get the word out! And thanks!