Disaster Assistance Manual
Click on the the titles of the chapters below to download a Word document from the Disaster Assistance Manual. See also our Resource and Referral Guide.
This document is provided as a resource to attorney volunteers who are fielding questions from those affected by disasters. This document is a starting point and is not intended to be the sole resource for you to rely on in providing legal assistance to those affected by natural disasters. If a matter needs further legal representation that would qualify for submission to the legal aid services organizations or clinics (all of which are based on whether or not the applicant satisfies the intake criteria), you should gather pertinent information as instructed by the organization managing disaster legal services in your area for further processing.
When the President of the United States declares a "major disaster" anywhere in the United States or its territories, federal assistance is made available to supplement the efforts and resources of state and local governments and voluntary relief organizations pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 5121, et seq.
Chapter 3: Falling Trees, Flying Limbs & Loud Neighbors
Disaster damage from the heavy rains, ferociously high winds, and flooding manifests in a number of ways. Not uncommonly, objects such as furniture or heavy tree limbs go flying, or trees are uprooted by the storm. This chapter addresses questions regarding those situations in which high winds, heavy rains, or flooding cause uprooted trees, tree limbs, and other like objects to damage persons or property.
This chapter focuses on South Carolina statutory and common law regarding the rights of landlords and tenants with respect to residential leases. Be wary of relying on resource materials that may include general statements of what the law usually is across the nation, as South Carolina is quite different from the laws of other states, particularly regarding statutory landlord-tenant law. Subsidized housing, like public housing or “Section 8”, is beyond the scope of this chapter and the answers to the questions in this chapter may be different for these forms of housing.
Chapter 5: Coming Soon
Chapter 6: Employer-Employee Issues
This section provides practical advice for assisting persons who have temporarily or permanently lost employment or are facing other employment-related issues as a result of a disaster.
Chapter 7: Social Security, Banking, and Financial Issues
If you did not receive your regularly scheduled payment from Social Security due to a disaster, you can go to any open Social Security office and request an immediate payment. To find the nearest Social Security office call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov
Chapter 8: Consumer Protection
Disasters are breeding grounds for unscrupulous consumer practices. Disaster victims, particularly senior citizens, the disabled, and limited English or non-English speaking persons are vulnerable to scams. Even financially sound families may fall behind on credit payments resulting in collection actions. Consumer information is essential to help prevent victimization.
When a disaster occurs, you should contact your insurance agent or company as quickly as possible because your policy requires it, and there are usually deadlines for reporting a loss and filing a claim.
After a natural disaster, lawyers may face questions that range from simple requests about where to find the phone number for a particular state agency to more complex inquiries about healthcare insurance or malpractice liability.
Chapter 11: Personal Bankruptcy
The damages and dislocation caused by a disaster are expected to make some storm victims think about filing bankruptcy. Below is a summary of certain applicable sections of the Bankruptcy Code and answers to common questions asked about bankruptcy. This outline is meant to only be a bankruptcy primer.
Chapter 12: Replacing Lost Documents
This chapter provides information on how to go about replacing documents lost, destroyed, or damaged during a disaster.
Natural disasters can create stress for families as a result of displacement, destruction of homes and property, loss and separation of family members, and lack of essential resources. Families often undergo changes in their regular routines, children sometimes change school, new employment may be needed, and income may decrease. This stress often results in family law issues regarding custody, visitation, child support, and alimony. Incidents of family and sexual violence typically increase following a natural disaster.
Federal law provides protections for students who are homeless or displaced as the result of natural disasters. The federal McKinney-Vento Act defines “homelessness” as it applies to public school students in pre-K through the 12th grade. Under this law, the definition of “homelessness” includes children and youth who do not have a regular and adequate nighttime residence and specifically applies to children and youth residing in shelters, transitional housing, cars, campgrounds, motels, or staying with friends or family temporarily as a result of economic hardship, loss of housing, and natural disasters. 42 U.S.C. § 11434A(2)(A)–(B). Families and youth living with others on a temporary basis and are unable to return to their homes because of a disaster would even be considered homeless under the Act.
Chapter 15: Coming Soon
Chapter 16: Resource and Referral Guide
At times, a referral to an attorney is not the best course of action. In your search for assistance, you may find that private community organizations or one or more local, state, or federal agencies can help you. In addition to providing emergency information, this guide lists resources, community service organizations, and government agencies with offices located in the areas where the people are being temporarily housed. It also includes the toll-free numbers for many state and federal agencies.
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