2020 Iowa Derecho

A toll-free disaster legal advice hotline is available to Linn County survivors of the recent Iowa derecho who may need legal assistance.

The hotline allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer to aid in disaster-related matters.

This is a partnership between Iowa Legal Aid, The Iowa State Bar Association, The Iowa State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the Linn County Bar Association, and the Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Linn County derecho victims facing legal issues related to the storm may call 1-877-469-2259 toll-free, 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday to request assistance. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with an Iowa Legal Aid attorney. Those who are not eligible for Iowa Legal Aid’s services will be connected with volunteer attorneys through The Iowa State Bar Association, the Linn County Bar Association, and the Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project.

The types of legal issues may include:

  • securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster survivors;
  • life, medical and property insurance claims;
  • home repair contracts and contractors;
  • replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster;
  • consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures; counseling on mortgageforeclosure problems; and
  • landlord-tenant problems.

Disaster Declaration

A Major Disaster Declaration was issued for Linn County Iowa, making federal funding available to individuals and business owners in those counties. The current deadline to file for Individual Assistance relief is October 16, 2020 for this county.

To register with FEMA and apply for assistance, visit DisasterAssistance.gov. Applicants may also call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY) seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. central time. Applicants should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (i.e., current telephone number, address where mail can be received, social security number, insurance coverage, and any other information to help substantiate the loss).

Background Information

When the President declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, establishes a toll-free number for disaster survivors to request legal assistance. Funding for the toll-free line comes from FEMA under the authority of Section 415 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707). The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division in turn collaborates with state bar associations and other legal organizations to recruit volunteers in affected areas to handle survivors’ cases.

Victims should be aware that there are limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where attorneys are paid part of the settlement by a court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service.

Partner Organizations

Iowa State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division: The Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of The Iowa State Bar Association (ISBA) is comprised of lawyers under 36 years of age, or who have been practicing law for 10 years or less. The ISBA YLD promotes professional values and involvement in the ISBA and provides opportunities for professional development and service to the community.

Iowa Legal Aid: Iowa Legal Aid is the largest non-profit law firm in Iowa and the only civil legal aid provider offering free legal services to all 99 Iowa counties. Iowa Legal Aid offices are located in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Mason City, Ottumwa, Sioux City and Waterloo.

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.

Linn County Bar Association: The Linn County Bar Association is a group of more than 400 attorneys working in or living in Linn County, Iowa. These attorneys provide services for clients in and around Linn County and throughout the state of Iowa.

Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project: The Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (“Polk County VLP”) one of the most successful programs in the country. Polk County lawyers donate more than 5,000 hours of their time annually to ensure that every client with legal needs can access the justice system. The Polk County Bar Association has more than 1,000 members. Membership dues allow the Polk County Bar Association to partner with and financially support the Polk County VLP.

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.