Hurricane Zeta (Mississippi 2020)

The Disaster Legal Services hotline is now available in response to damages by Hurricane Zeta on October 28-29, 2020, in Mississippi.  The Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is providing free disaster legal assistance efforts to individuals that were affected by the recent storms in George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Stone counties. 

Low-income survivors facing legal issues may call 1-877-691-6185 between 9:00am and 4:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday. 

Major Disaster Declaration  

On December 31, 2020, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the State of Mississippi to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the area affected by Hurricane Zeta from October 28-29, 2020. The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Stone counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.

Mississippians who sustained property damage as a result of Hurricane Zeta are urged to register with FEMA, as they may be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance. People who sustained storm damage in the affected counties above can register for FEMA assistance online at www.DisasterAssistance.govor via smartphone or Web-enabled device at www.fema.gov. Applicants may also call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) from 6 a.m. to midnight CT / 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET. Applicants should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (i.e., name, permanent address and phone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate the loss. In addition, there is information available at www.DisasterLegalAid.org.

Local Partnership Members  

The following organizations have joined forces to support a toll-free phone line for Mississippi storm survivors to request free legal assistance and to provide volunteer attorneys to handle cases arising from recent storm damage. 

Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division – The Bar was founded in 1906. Today all of Mississippi’s 8,000+ lawyers are members of the Bar. The Bar’s Young Lawyers Division has been providing disaster legal assistance in Mississippi since Hurricane Camille in 1969. The Bar’s Young Lawyers Division is composed of lawyers under the age of 37. 

Mississippi Center for Legal Services– (available at: http://www.mslegalservices.org) Mississippi Center for Legal Services is a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) grantee program which provides free civil legal services to low income and seniors in the State of Mississippi.  

Disaster Legal Aid Partners

American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division: The ABA YLD, the largest national organization of young lawyers, provides leadership in serving the public and the profession, and promotes excellence and fulfillment in the practice of law. Its parent organization, the ABA, is the national voice of the legal profession and the largest voluntary professional membership group in the world.

Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror. Through an agreement with the American Bar Association, FEMA underwrites the cost of operating toll-free legal assistance lines for survivors in areas designated as federal disaster sites.

National Disaster Legal Aid Online: NDLA is a collaborative effort of Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and Pro Bono Net.

United Policyholders: UP is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group that specializes in helping disaster survivors with insurance claim issues. UP also trains case managers and legal aid lawyers to assist clients with insurance and disaster recovery matters.

Examples of Legal Assistance

Survivors who qualify for assistance will be matched with local legal aid providers and volunteer attorneys to provide free legal help. Examples of legal assistance available include the following: 

  • Assistance securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster victims; 
  • Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims; 
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors; 
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents lost or destroyed in the disaster; 
  • Consumer protections such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process; 
  • Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems; and 
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems 

Beware of Fraud  

FEMA urges affected individuals to be aware of the risk of fraud and common scams in the wake of severe weather. Common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid. You are urged to ask questions and to require identification when someone claims to represent a government agency. 

Affected individuals should also keep in mind that state and federal workers never ask for or accept money and always carry identification badges with a photograph. There is no fee required to apply for or to receive disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or the State. Additionally, no state or federal government disaster assistance agency will call to ask for you financial account information. Unless you place a call to the agency yourself, you should not provide personal information over the phone as it can lead to identity theft. 

Those who suspect fraud can call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). Complaints may also be made to local law enforcement.