Hotline/Help Center to Open on Monday, November 5, Providing Referrals, Assistance and Legal Advice
Central Islip - Touro Law Center will open a center next week to provide referrals, assistance and legal advice for residents and small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Touro Law Center – Hurricane Emergency Assistance and Referral Team (TLC-HEART) will be staffed by volunteer lawyers and law students. Beginning on Monday, November 5, those affected by the storm will be able to call the center at (631) 761-7198 and email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive assistance from disaster relief trained students and attorneys who will match resident concerns with referrals to federal, state and local government agencies and private groups offering storm-related assistance. The telephone hotline will be answered live Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Voicemail messages can be left 24/7.
“Touro Law Center was founded on the values of academic excellence, social justice and community service. We have always been there when people needed help, and now we are preparing once again to respond to a crisis in our community,” said Dean Patricia Salkin. She continued, “We know that based on the experiences from other natural disasters in the State and across the country, the immediate pro bono assistance of trained lawyers and supervised law students is in immediate demand and will be a necessary component of rebuilding for many months to come.” The Center will offer:
- assistance in assessing eligibility and completing application forms for the wide range of emergency assistance available to storm victims, both individuals and small businesses (e.g., food stamps, government loans and grants);
- referrals for free legal consultation and advice on storm-related legal issues (e.g., insurance, landlord-tenant, consumer complaints, unemployment);
- assistance to members of the entire Touro community, including students and staff members, who are in need.
Touro Law is coordinating with the New York State Bar Association and local bar associations, and with federal, state and local officials in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Touro Law Center’s Public Advocacy Center (PAC), Student Disaster Relief Network and Student Bar Association are also joining in the effort.
Congressman Steve Israel has joined Touro Law Center’s efforts. The Congressman announced he will call on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to appoint a Federal Insurance Oversight Monitor to ensure that consumers are not being taken advantage of in states impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Rep. Israel and Touro Law Center are committed to making sure consumers are protected as they begin to file claims in the aftermath of the storm.
Touro Law houses a dozen not-for-profit public interest law groups in our Public Advocacy Center that already provide assistance in senior citizen, employment, disability, family law, domestic violence and similar issues that can sometimes be exacerbated during natural disaster. The PAC agencies have agreed to help provide additional resources and support for the victims of the hurricane. “Many of these agencies, such as the Empire Justice Center, the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, and the Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union already provide many of these services to people in need on Long Island and will be a tremendous resource to TLC-HEART,” said Thomas Maligno, Director of Public Advocacy at Touro Law Center.
The Student Disaster Relief Network was created in 2005 as part of the Hurricane Relief Network, which was established at law schools throughout the country in response to the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Touro Law and the SDRN have remained committed to disaster relief since the group formed. The group has traditionally traveled twice annually to the Gulf Coast to provide free legal assistance to those who were and are still affected by Hurricane Katrina. SDRN President Matthew Rubino, a third year law student at Touro Law stated, “We are now ready to apply our training to benefit the residents of the Tri-State region, determined to aid in the recovery effort in any way we can. This year, our organization will focus our efforts exclusively in our local communities.”
Dean Salkin also stated, “We will work on outreach to let the community know what we have to offer, and we will draw upon the rich diversity of our student body – who collectively speak more than 25 languages fluently – to help us more effectively communicate with all who may need our help. As soon as it is safe, we will work with government officials and nonprofit organizations to send teams on-site to disaster ravaged areas where can provide in person support to help people rebuild their lives, homes and businesses.”