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AUSTIN—The State Bar of Texas, the American Bar Association, and legal aid providers across the state remind Texans that a toll-free legal assistance hotline is available to low-income individuals and families affected by the Texas winter storms that began February 11.

The hotline—800-504-7030—is available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese and connects low-income individuals affected by the disaster with local legal aid providers who can help with:

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  • Assistance securing government benefits as they are made available;
  • Assistance with life, medical, and property insurance claims;
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors;
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents lost or destroyed in the disaster;
  • Consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process;
  • Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems; and
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.

Callers to the hotline can leave a message at any time. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help. Callers should be aware there are some limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where attorneys are paid part of the settlement by the court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service.

Federal Disaster Declarations

President Joseph R. Biden issued federal disaster declarations for 108 Texas counties, making federal funding available to individuals and businesses who suffered damages in the storm. The assistance includes 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.

Texans who suffered losses as a result of the storm are urged to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as they may be eligible assistance. People can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov. Applicants may also call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY).

Online Resources

The Texas Legal Services Center has created a webpage of resources at texaslawhelp.org. Look for a button at the top for Winter Storm Uri. Online winter storm resources also may be found on the State Bar of Texas website at texasbar.com/winterstorm.

Barratry or Improper Solicitation

The State Bar of Texas reminds the public that in many cases it is a crime in Texas for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a person for purposes of legal representation if the person has not first requested the call or personal visit. The contact is not illegal if the attorney is not seeking payment or has a preexisting professional-client or family relationship with the person being contacted.

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If you witness something you believe to be improper solicitation, or barratry, please get the name and phone number of the person making contact and report it to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar of Texas Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office toll free at 866-224-5999.

Partnership Members

The following organizations have joined forces to provide a toll-free phone line for Texas disaster victims to request free legal assistance and to connect with volunteer attorneys to handle cases arising from the recent severe weather:

American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (americanbar.org) — The ABA YLD, the largest national organization of young lawyers, provides leadership in serving the public and the profession, and promotes excellence and fulfillment in the practice of law. Its parent organization, the ABA, is the national voice of the legal profession and the largest voluntary professional membership group in the world.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema.gov) — FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters—whether natural or man-made—including acts of terror.  Through an agreement with the ABA, FEMA underwrites the cost of operating toll-free legal assistance lines for victims in areas designated as federal disaster sites.

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (lanwt.org) — Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas is a nonprofit organization that strives to meet the legal needs of more than 1.5 million eligible clients in its 114-county service area. The fifth-largest legal aid program in the United States, LANWT provides a wide variety of broad-based legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients including family law, landlord/tenant cases, public benefits, wills, foreclosure prevention, consumer issues, and community revitalization matters.

Lone Star Legal Aid (lonestarlegal.org) — Lone Star Legal Aid is the fourth largest service provider of free legal aid in the United States. LSLA serves 72 counties in Texas and four in Arkansas, from Texarkana, to the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast state-line, down to Matagorda Bay, an area with over 2 million Texans eligible for free legal services. LSLA has 14 offices throughout east, southeast, and northeast Texas; covering consumer, housing, environmental justice, disaster recovery, tax relief, family law, domestic violence, sexual assault, crime victim rights, veterans benefits, and more.

State Bar of Texas (texasbar.com) — The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system.

Texas Legal Services Center (tlsc.org) — Texas Legal Services Center is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide high-quality legal representation, advice, advocacy, and education at no cost to underserved people across the state. With more than a dozen practice areas, our work touches almost every aspect of civil law that impacts low-income Texans.

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Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (trla.org) — Texas RioGrande Legal Aid provides free legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney in 68 southwestern counties, including the entire Texas-Mexico border. More than 2.7 million residents of Southwest Texas are considered eligible for TRLA services. TRLA attorneys specialize in more than 45 areas of the law, including disaster assistance, family, employment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, housing, education, immigration, farmworker, and civil rights.

News Source: cbslocal.com

Tags: legal aid low income state bar of texas texas winter storms nonprofit organization in the united states texas winter storms legal services federal disaster across the state landlord tenant individuals affected the effects to low income counseling winter storm is available texas winter the attorney eligible available the disaster who suffered the federal the federal the hotline the largest the hotline

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A guide to what you can expect to get from the $1.9 trillion Senate stimulus

(CNN)The $1.9 trillion coronavirus package being considered by the Senate contains a wide range of proposals to help Americans still struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

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The legislation is expected to differ in at least two major ways from the bill that passed the House of Representatives last week.
    Senators narrowed the eligibility for stimulus checks and removed a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the wage hike violated the strict rules of reconciliation, which is the procedure Democratic leaders are using to approve the bill in the chamber without any Republican support. The Senate bill will contain many of the same measures aimed at assisting Americans in need that were in the legislation approved by the House and the package that President Joe Biden unveiled in January. In addition to another round of direct payments, it would provide more assistance for people who are unemployed, hungry or uninsured as well as for those at risk of losing their homes. It also would provide a bigger tax break for parents.Biden and congressional Democrats argue that another massive bill is necessary to assist both people in need and the nation at large. Read MoreHere's what we know about how Americans could benefit from the Senate bill:If your family makes less than $160,000 a yearThe Senate bill would provide direct payments worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $160,000 a year and individuals earning less than $80,000 a year. The payments will phase out faster than they would have under the House version of the bill, which set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals.That means that not everyone who was eligible for a check earlier will receive one now -- but for those who do qualify, the new payments will top up the $600 checks approved in December, bringing recipients to a total of $2,000 apiece.Individuals earning less than $75,000 would receive the full $1,400.Married couples earning less than $150,000 a year would receive $2,800 -- and families with children would be eligible for an additional $1,400 per dependent.The payments will be calculated based on either 2019 or 2020 income. Unlike the previous two rounds, adult dependents -- including college students -- would be eligible for the payments.If you are unemployedOut-of-work Americans would get a federal weekly boost of $400 through August 29. Those enrolled in two key pandemic unemployment programs could also continue receiving benefits until that date.Freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and certain people affected by the coronavirus could remain in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for up to 74 weeks and those whose traditional state benefits run out could receive Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for 48 weeks.The jobless in these pandemic programs will start running out of benefits in mid-March, when provisions in December's $900 billion relief package begin to phase out along with the current $300 federal weekly enhancement.Senators had looked to reduce the federal enhancement to $300 a week and to extend the duration of the programs by another month. But those changes have not progressed.Who is out of luck?Workers being paid at or just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will not see a boost in pay.The Senate parliamentarian ruled in late February that increasing the hourly threshold to $15 does not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the reconciliation process, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass the relief bill with a simple majority and no Republican votes.Here's what's in the House bill:If you are hungryFood stamp recipients would see a 15% increase in benefits continue through September, instead of having it expire at the end of June.And families whose children's schools are closed may be able to receive Pandemic-EBT benefits through the summer if their state opts to continue it. The program provides funds to replace free- and reduced-price meals that kids would have been given in school.If you're behind on your rent or mortgageThe legislation would send roughly $19.1 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent, rent assistance and utility bills. About $10 billion would be authorized to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages, utilities and property taxes. It would provide another $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness.If you have childrenAlong with receiving the stimulus payments described above, most families with minor children could claim a larger child tax credit for 2021. Low-income parents, in particular, would benefit.Qualifying families could receive the child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each one under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.The credit would also become fully refundable so more low-income parents could take advantage of it. Plus, households could receive payments monthly, rather than a lump sum once a year, which would make it easier for them to pay the bills.Families paying for child care services could receive some additional aid. The bill would provide $39 billion to child care providers, some of which must be used to help families struggling to pay the cost. If you're sickIf you're sick, quarantining or caring for an ill loved one or a child whose school is closed, the bill may provide your employer an incentive to offer paid sick and family leave. Unlike Biden's original proposal, the House bill would not require employers to offer the benefit. But it does continue to provide tax credits to employers who voluntarily choose to offer the benefit through October 1. Last year, Congress guaranteed many workers two weeks pay if they contracted Covid or were quarantining. It also provided an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to those who were staying home with kids whose schools were closed. Those benefits expired in December. If you need health insurance More Americans could qualify for heftier federal premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act policies for two years.Enrollees would pay no more than 8.5% of their income towards coverage, down from nearly 10% now. Also, those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level -- about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 -- would become eligible for help.Lower-income enrollees could have their premiums eliminated completely, and those collecting unemployment benefits could sign up for coverage with no premiums in 2021. Those who want to remain on their employer health insurance plans through COBRA could also get federal help. These laid-off workers would pay only 15% of the premium through the end of September, though that could still prove costly. If you own a small businessThe bill would provide $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money. It also provides $25 billion for a new grant program specifically for bars and restaurants. Eligible businesses may receive up to $10 million and can use the money for a variety of expenses, including payroll, mortgage and rent, utilities and food and beverages.
      The Paycheck Protection Program, which is currently taking applications for second-round loans, would get an additional $7 billion and the bill would make more non-profit organizations eligible. Another $175 million would be used for outreach and promotion, creating a Community Navigator Program to help target eligible businesses.

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