Amid Virus, Disaster Attorneys Struggle To Reach Survivors

Brittanny Perrigue, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, is no stranger to disaster. The community she serves sits in the floodplain of the river that carves Texas' southern border.

News Story (NATIONAL)

Cara Bayles
September 20, 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Disaster Recovery, Natural Disasters

Organizations mentioned/involved: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA)


Usually, in the aftermath of a disaster, attorneys across the country offer their services to survivors, as they did in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. But this year, the glut of natural disasters, combined with the strain the pandemic is putting on legal aid, means “pro bono attorneys are needed in their own areas,” Stanley said, because “everyone is in dire need of legal assistance around the entire country.”

FEMA may also be triaging its response efforts, according to Tiela Chalmers, who heads the Alameda County Bar Association and Legal Access Alameda, and is coordinating the legal response to the wildfires in Northern California.

“Climate change is giving us so many more disasters,” she said. “It used to be that FEMA would respond to just a few disasters each year. Now it’s overwhelming. So I do understand the need to conserve resources.”