TRLA Prepares for Central Texas Flood Victims
AUSTIN — For the third time in little more than a year, TRLA is gearing up to help Texans deal with post-disaster legal problems. Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 18 Texas counties, where persistent rain and flooding had killed two people and brought down a bridge on the Llano River. Given that all but two of the counties are within TRLA’s service area, disaster legal aid attorneys expect heavy demand from people whose homes and property have been destroyed in the flooding.
“We’re ready to help people with the range of post-flooding legal problems, like denials from insurance companies or lost or destroyed documents,” said Tracy Figueroa, who leads TRLA’s disaster legal aid team. In addition to calling TRLA’s disaster hotline (866) 757-1570, survivors can access disaster legal aid tip sheets and videos here. The information — which covers everything from the options for renters whose residences have been damaged to how to apply for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) — can help people advocate for themselves.
The 36 counties covered in Gov. Abbott’s disaster declaration include 27 that are in TRLA’s service area: Bandera, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Cameron, Edwards, Gillespie, Hidalgo, Hood, Jim Wells, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, La Salle, Live Oak, Llano, Mason, McMullen, Nueces, Real, San Patricio, Travis, Uvalde, Willacy, Williamson Counties, and Zavala counties. For more information about TRLA’s Disaster Assistance program, please go to “Disaster Aid” on our Practice Areas page or click on Get Help.
The October flooding comes as attorneys continue to help survivors of both 2017 Hurricane Harvey and June 2018 flooding in the Rio Grande Valley. Despite the fury of Hurricane Harvey, some 43 percent of those who applied to FEMA for assistance were rejected, according to a May report from Corpus Christi’s KRISTV, which got the figure through a FOIA request. The television station described the rate as “wholesale rejection of aid applications.” By appealing unfair denials from FEMA, TRLA was able to secure about $420,000 in aid for its clients, which they used to repair their homes and property and in other ways recover from the disaster. At the same time, TRLA’s disaster team has been assisting low income residents in the Rio Grande Valley, where a federal disaster declaration was issued over the summer.
Following the Gov. Abbott’s disaster declaration amid October flooding in central Texas, the State Bar of Texas issued a press release:
AUSTIN — The State Bar of Texas reminds residents that a toll-free legal hotline—(800) 504-7030—is available to connect people with local legal aid providers following disasters such as the recent flooding in Central and South Texas. The hotline—answered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese—is designed to connect low-income people with legal aid providers in their area who can help with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant problems, and consumer protection concerns such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams during the rebuilding process.
Callers are routed to their local legal aid provider or can choose to leave a message. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help.
Individuals who qualify also may use texaslegalanswers.org—an online legal advice clinic where individuals can post their civil legal questions and have them answered online by volunteer attorneys. The State Bar of Texas operates Texas Legal Answers in conjunction with the American Bar Association.
Additional resources are available at texasbar.com/disasters and texaslawhelp.org.
The State Bar of Texas reminds the public that in many cases it is a crime in Texas for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a person for purposes of legal representation if the person has not first requested the call or personal visit. The contact is not illegal if the attorney is not seeking payment or has a preexisting professional-client or family relationship with the person being contacted.
If you witness something you believe to be improper solicitation, or barratry, please get the name and phone number of the person making contact and report it to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office toll free at (866) 224-5999.