As the Florida Panhandle navigates the many road blocks that we face before us, LSNF is here to provide legal assistance, resources, and information that will help you understand any legal issues you may face. Below you will find websites, resources, and forms that relate to how Hurricane Michael may have or will affect you.
Are you affected by Hurricane Michael? The following are legal issues to consider in the first few months after a disaster:
- Securing FEMA and other benefits, which you have the right to appeal if you disagree with the decision.
- Making life, medical and property insurance claims. You should consent with an attorney if your claim is denied or too low.
- Dealing with home repair contractors.
- Replacing wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the hurricane.
- Helping with consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures.
- Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems or landlord/tenant issues.
LSNF will be at the following FEMA Disaster Recover Center (DRC) locations to provide free civil legal help:
Bay County CRC – Thursdays
10:00 am to 1:00 pm CST
21 and 28
Bay County Public Library: 898 West 11th St., Panama City, Florida
Gulf County DRC
FEMA DRC staff in Gulf County will direct legal inquiries to LSNF.
Monday through Saturday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
* Port St. Joe Fire Department: 404 Williams Ave., Port St. Joe, Florida
Monday’s and Tuesday’s, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
* Port St. Joe Community Resource Center/Mobile Unit: 401 Peters St., Port St. Joe, Florida
How to Help
Are you an attorney? Help LSNF respond to those in need!
Are you an attorney and want to help in our helpline? We are accepting pro bono support through all of our 16 counties. You can submit an application below or download the sign up form HERE!
Federal Emergency Management Agency – 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 from the effects of the disaster. People in the following counties are eligible to receive federal disaster assistance: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla, and Washington. For DR-4399, assistance for affected individuals and families is available and people are urged to apply through FEMA: Disaster Number: 4399
Calling 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 800-621-3362. People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available. Press 2 for Spanish and press 3 for other languages. Or download the FEMA Mobile App.
FEMA and Benefits Deadlines
|Disaster Unemployment Assistance Application||December 31, 2018 (extended)|
|Registration with FEMA for Disaster Assistance||December 17, 2018 (extended)|
|Appeal Your FEMA Decision||Within 60 days of the date on the determination letter|
If the Hurricane made your primary home unlivable or you have expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, you may be eligible for FEMA assistance. Apply online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. Max FEMA payout for home repairs in $33,000. Some pointers:
- Keep receipts for meals and lodging if you had to leave home.
- Make sure only one person per household applies for FEMA relief.
- Keep a copy of your claim, pin, and application number.
- Be present at the home for your FEMA inspection.
- Beware of fraudulent activity as you seek help with your FEMA claims!
- Report any and all fraudulent activity, including price gouging, with the State of Florida Attorney General’s office (1-866-966-7226).
- If you are denied or receive less than you think you should, you should seek legal counsel.
If you need to appeal a FEMA denial on your own, please see here to get an interactive form to appeal and letter requesting a copy of your file.
For Frequently Asked Questions about FEMA appeals, please click here.
Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs)
|Bay County||Bay County Library 898 W 11th Street Room #104 Panama City, FL 32401||Sun.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.|
|Bay County (Closes Feb. 20)||Callaway Community Center 520 Beluh Ave, Panama City, FL 32404||Sun.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.|
|Calhoun County (Closes Feb. 22)||Blountstown Public Library 17731 NE Pear Street, Blountstown FL 32424||Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m./ Sunday noon to 5 p.m.|
|Gadsden County||(Old) Gretna Elementary 706 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Gretna, FL 32332||Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m./Closed Sunday|
|Gulf County (Closes Feb. 26)||Wewahitcka Branch Library 314 N 2nd Street, Wewahitchka, FL 32465||Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m./Sun. noon to 5|
|Jackson County (Closed)||University Extension Office 2741 Penn Ave, Marianna, FL 32448||Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m./Sun. noon to 5|
To verify the location hours of operation visit: https://egateway.fema.gov/ESF6/DRCLocator and search Florida
Disaster Unemployment Assistance – Residents and businesses in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington counties are now able to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). DUA is available to Florida businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a result of Hurricane Michael. Individuals affected in these designated-disaster areas must file DUA applications by December 31, 2018 (extended). To learn more or to apply, go to: https://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/disaster.asp
Replacement Food Stamps – On Oct. 17, 2018 FNS approved Florida’s request to waive timely reporting of food loss to households in the counties of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Homes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington. This waiver approval will allow households in these affected counties to make a request for replacement of SNAP benefits through October 30, 2018.
For those who receive food stamps (also called SNAP) who also lost power due to Hurricane Michael, you may be eligible for Replacement Food Stamps. To request replacement food stamps, fill out the replacement form at DCF’s website. Return the form to DCF in person, by mail or fax within 10 days of the loss. Make sure to keep proof of your request. This program is different than disaster food stamps/SNAP, which have not yet been made available. The Replacement Food Stamps form can be found at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/DCFForms/Search/OpenDCFForm.aspx?FormId=597
Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) – The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has initiated the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in 12 counties to assist communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. On October 25, 2018, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) approved Florida’s request to operate a D-SNAP in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla, and Washington counties starting on October 27. For specific information regarding D-SNAP eligibility and operations, click here, or call the State’s SNAP hotline at 866-762-2237. If you need assistance with or a replacement of your Florida EBT card, please call the State’s EBT customer service number at: 888-356-3281. On October 29, 2018, FNS approved Florida’s waiver request to allow for the expungement of unused disaster SNAP benefits 90 days after the date the benefits become available. The waiver will take effect upon approval and will remain in effect until all benefits issued for the disaster benefit period of October 27, 2018, through November 18, 2018, have been expunged.
FLOW (Florida Licensing on Wheels) – Florida’s Department of Highway Safety is operating mobile driver license and motor vehicle services (called FLOW) for Hurricane Michael survivors to renew, obtain or replace driver’s licenses, ID cards, and disabled parking permits as well as to change names or addresses on licenses and ID cards. Go to https://www.flhsmv.gov/locations/florida-licensing-wheels-flow/ for more information.
After a natural disaster, your lease remains binding on both the tenant and the landlord. You have the right to reduce your rent in proportion to the damage to the unit. You can terminate your lease for lack of repair by giving the landlord a written notice of your intent to terminate the lease if specific repairs you list are not made. The notice must give the landlord at least seven days to make the repairs. Florida law does not allow a landlord to remove you without filing an eviction action in court and you don’t have to move until a judge enters a final judgement. Your landlord must give you written notice to move before filing an eviction case against you in court. If your landlord tries to lock you out, you can call the police and you should consult a lawyer to find out about an action for damages.
Direct Housing Assistance – On October 28th, FEMA approved Direct Housing Assistance in the form of Multi-family lease and repair (MLR), Manufactured Housing Units (MHU) and Recreational Vehicles (RVs) for Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf and Jackson. Priority for housing units is given to applicants whose household includes one or more persons with a disability or other access and functional needs. Additional information is available here.
Disaster Information for Renters – People who have sustained property damage as a result of the severe storms and flooding are urged to register with FEMA, as they may be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance. People can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov. Applicants also may call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Flood survivors are also encouraged to call the FEMA hotline to report their damage. For more information on Florida’s recovery: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4399
The Blue Roof Program – If you are still faced with damage to your roof while trying to make repairs to your home due to Hurricane Michael, The Blue Roof Program may be able to help. This program is making temporary repairs to partially damaged roofs. Call 1-888-ROOF-BLU or go to https://www.flgov.com/2018/10/17/gov-scott-operation-blue-roof-to-help-families-temporarily-repair-homes-at-no-cost/ **NOTE: To be eligible, the roof must not have more than 50% structural damage and the owner must give right of entry to the property.
Transitional Sheltering Assistance – FEMA has opened up its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for eligible residents of Bay, Gulf and Jackson counties. TSA is available for those whose primary pre-disaster residence is uninhabitable or inaccessible because of Hurricane Michael. Period of Assistance will be 5- 14 days after TSA declaration (10/24/2018) Eligible registrants may choose to stay at any TSA participating lodging facility where a vacant room is available. A list of approved lodging facilities can be found at http://www.disasterassistance.gov/ and through the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362). If approved, eligible registrants will be notified of their initial eligibility and receive seven days’ notice prior to their TSA end date. Continued eligibility for TSA will be tied to a registrant’s eligibility for Housing Assistance under the IHP and will be based on individual circumstances and demonstrated continued need.
Learn more about title clearing and probate processes HERE!
Insurance (Health & Home)
Homeowners and renters with insurance, should contact their insurance company immediately. They should take photographs of their property before making repairs, make a list of damaged items, gather important documents, and document every contact with the insurance company or its agents/adjusters.
Florida KidCare Premiums – Following the devastating impact of Hurricane Michael, the Board of Directors for the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation has decided to cover monthly premium payments in the 12 counties designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance, which include: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington. The Board also approved a renewal extension period until February 1, 2019, for families in those counties whose regular annual renewal falls between November 1, 2018, and January 1, 2019. For more information about Florida KidCare, visit floridakidcare.org
United Policyholders – UP specializes in helping disaster survivors with insurance claim issues.
Emergency Prescription Assistance Program – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has activated the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) to allow uninsured Floridians free replacements of certain medical supplies, equipment and medications lost or damaged by Hurricane Michael through 11/15/2018. HHS says that uninsured Floridians affected by Michael can visit www.phe.gov/epap .or call 855-793-7470 to see if their medication or medical/supplies or equipment are covered and to find a participating pharmacy. Click here for more EPAP information.
Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available for eligible applicants. SBA helps businesses of all sizes (including landlords), private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or damaged personal property. Disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries.
For more information, contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting SBA’s website at disasterloan.sba.gov. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.
Legal Assistance Consumer Guide: The Florida Bar’s “Mass Disaster” consumer guide provides information for consumers on whom to contact for legal assistance and how to protect their legal rights in the event of a mass disaster: linked here.
Price Gouging – Attorney General Pam Bondi activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226). Problems with insurance companies can be directed to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-866-966-7226 or by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-800-342-2762.
Working with Contractors:
- Before signing a contract for repairs, tree work or debris removal, contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (850-487-1395) or MyFloridaLicense.com to verify the current status of the license.
- Make sure that the agreement is in writing and read it completely.
- Ask for references and, where possible, get estimates from more than one contractor.
- Fill in any blank spaces and make sure the contractor’s name, address, phone number, license number, description of the work, completion date and warranty information are completed.
- Do not sign off that the work is completed unless it is actually completed acceptably.
- The contractor should pull any permits for the work – do not pull permits for the contractor.
Duke Energy Customers Power Restoration – If you are Duke Energy customer and not had your power restored, please check your electric box. If there is a black check make on it, that means it has been inspected and that Duke Energy has your address and will be reconnecting you to their grid soon. If you see a red X on your box, you will need to have it repaired by a certified electrician.
iBudget Waiver Service – The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) has released Guidance Regarding iBudget Waiver Services During Hurricane Michael Recovery for October 2018 governing services provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Included are APD’s expectation that providers continue to “provide all services, to the best of their ability, without disruption,” APD’s pledge to honor services that are provided in good faith, and a description of how services for displaced survivors are to be handled.
Legal Aid Resources
Disaster Legal Hotline: Legal Aid Hotline is now available for Michael survivors who cannot pay for an attorney: 1-866-550-2929. The hotline operates through a partnership between The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Disaster Legal Aid – A centralized national resource for legal aid
American Bar Association – Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness
Florida Disaster, Division of Emergency Management – Latest updates on Hurricane Michael
Florida Bar – Hurricane Resources
Legal Aid Assistance – Resources and volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys and information to help Floridians seeking civil legal aid are listed at https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/storm-aid. The Florida Bar Foundation created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund for civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael and any subsequent hurricanes that make landfall in Florida.
Unethical Conduct – Those who feel they have been unfairly treated by a lawyer should contact The Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 1-866-352-0707. Only Florida Bar members who are eligible to practice can give legal advice and provide legal services.
The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) to U.S. residents.
In the Media