Legal aid group offering free help to low-income residents

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

Free legal aid to those affected by the March 11 flooding can be found through the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ free disaster legal help.

Roxanne Newman, the group’s deputy director, said her legal aid group can offer many benefits to those who qualify.

“Our income guidelines are that people have to be within 200 percent of the poverty guidelines for their household size,” Newman said.

Beyond that, the group can’t help people who have greater than $8,000 of assets, though she said the group only usually counts liquid assets, meaning primary residences and cars used for work or school aren’t included.

Newman said that after disasters, legal help is often necessary, particularly when it comes to housing.

After Hurricane Katrina, Newman said her group found many people with damaged ancestral homes they lived in but didn’t technically own. The process of transferring a deed to a living heir is called succession, and Newman said it can be necessary before FEMA pays out benefits.

“Sometimes people will need to open a succession on an heir’s property in order to be able to apply for FEMA benefits,” she said. “One thing we can do, if you need a succession to get FEMA benefits in the event of a disaster we could help.”

That said, Newman said her group will only help residents of a primary home.

“For the successions, people need to be living in the home,” she said. “Were not going to help you get a home if you’re not going to be living in it. We want to benefit someone so they can keep a roof over their head.”

But even homeowners with proper titles could need legal counsel, particularly if federal aid is denied.

“If they apply for FEMA benefits and they’re denied, that’s something we can help them with,” she said. “And FEMA sometimes tries to recoup money from people and we can assist them with that.”

Renters, too, could need legal aid. Newman said sometimes renters are stuck with a flood-damaged home with little recourse outside the legal system.

That aid also includes help with school admission, contractor fraud, FEMA issues, custody, disaster food stamps (DSNAP), disaster unemployment and other civil legal matters.

However, Newman said her group doesn’t help people apply for these benefits, but can help if the benefits were denied.

“If you were denied benefits and you think it was wrong, you should contact us,” she said.

Anyone interested can apply for assistance online at or call the group at 985-345-2130. Residents can also visit their Hammond offices at 1200 Derek Drive, Suite 100. The legal aid group also has a Covington officer at 423 North Florida.

The offices are open five days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.