The Long Tail of Superstorm Sandy
Superstorm Sandy may be yesterday’s news for some people, but for many whose lives were upended on October 29, 2012, the storm continues to reverberate. Thanks to multiple grants from the New York State Housing Trust Fund, the Robin Hood Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York, and others, NYLAG has been a lifeline for thousands of these individuals and their families.
NYLAG is the largest provider of disaster legal services to Sandy victims in New York City and Long Island and is committed to continuing this important work in the months and years ahead.
NYLAG assisted more than 6,981 households, and handled 9,546 cases, benefiting 21,361 people as of April 29.
Based on direct payment data and an extensive phone survey of clients (necessary to identify unreported awards received through NYLAG’s assistance), NYLAG has helped Sandy victims achieve more than $40,457,975 in direct payments and savings, producing more than $14 in direct monetary benefits for storm victims for every $1 expended on the agency’s storm relief efforts.
The top legal areas addressed post-Sandy covered a wide range of needs, including FEMA appeals, insurance related matters, landlord/tenant disputes, eviction and foreclosure prevention, and contractor fraud, among a myriad of other issues.
NYLAG’s unique model for disaster-related legal services delivery has played a large part in achieving these results. From the very beginning, NYLAG’s Storm Response Unit has combined its community-based intake system with a dedicated staff of 36 professionals who specialize in all disaster-related legal areas. Their work is augmented by the support of NYLAG’s Mobile Legal Help Center, pro bono and volunteer resources, and an in-house financial counseling division to help ensure the long-term financial security of storm victims.
Over the next 18 months, NYLAG expects the demand for services to remain robust as storm victims continue to struggle with increasingly complex and entrenched issues, requiring more extensive legal assistance and direct representation. With long term funding securely in place, NYLAG can also take on cases from other organizations that do not have the capacity to serve Sandy victims.
NYLAG continues to take on hundreds of new storm-related matters each month, and had 1,250 storm-related matters still open as of April 29. There has been a surge in insurance company litigation, and based on the experience of Hurricane Katrina, attorneys expect high demand for advocacy to prevent inappropriate recoupments of FEMA grants. NYLAG also expects to see a continuing rise in contractor fraud disputes and in foreclosure actions now that almost all post-Sandy mortgage forbearance periods have ended.
If any good can come from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, it would be that it has proven beyond doubt how vital legal services are in the wake of a disaster. NYLAG is committed to making sure that victims continue to have access to advocates who can help navigate the recovery process, and that families receive the fair outcomes they need to rebuild their lives.
The charts above are from NYLAG’s Superstorm Sandy 18 Month Report. Click here to view/ download the full printable report.