Governor Cuomo Announces $5 Million Award to NYLAG for Sandy Relief

Seth Diamond, Director of the Office of Storm Recovery (center), is shown accepting an award on behalf of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The award coincided with the announcement of the new grant, and was presented by Abby S. Milstein, NYLAG Board Chair (left), and Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG President (right), at a Pro Bono Awards Reception on October 29, 2013, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

Seth Diamond, Director of the Office of Storm Recovery (center), is shown accepting an award on behalf of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The award coincided with the announcement of the new grant, and was presented by Abby S. Milstein, NYLAG Board Chair (left), and Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG President (right), at a Pro Bono Awards Reception on October 29, 2013, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

“Families and small business owners who have already suffered greatly from the damage of Superstorm Sandy do not need the additional burden of enormous legal bills,” Governor Cuomo said. “This investment will allow NYLAG staff attorneys and volunteer attorneys to continue providing the enormous public benefit that they began right after the storm first hit, by helping needy clients navigate complex situations and helping them put their lives back together.”

Seth Diamond, Director of the Office of Storm Recovery, said: “I commend NYLAG for their tireless effort to help storm victims with FEMA applications, insurance matters, negotiating landlord/tenant disputes, and avoiding third-party fraud.  This award will expand the pro bono services to thousands more families and businesses in need.”

“We are thrilled and grateful to Governor Cuomo for this extraordinary grant,” said Abby S. Milstein, Chair of NYLAG’s Board of Directors. “Our Governor recognizes that the needs of Sandy victims are long term, and he appreciates the critical importance of providing an array of civil legal services as part of the State’s ongoing Sandy relief effort.”

“This generous and far-sighted grant from Governor Cuomo will allow NYLAG to continue providing desperately needed legal services to victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York City and Long Island at a time when the vast scope of this disaster is coming into focus,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG’s President and Attorney-in-Charge. “The governor is among the growing number of elected officials who have come to recognize the key role legal services can and should play following a disaster such as Sandy. This funding will prevent a potential crisis for low-income New Yorkers who have already suffered devastating losses, ensuring their continued progress on the path toward recovery.”

Launched in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, NYLAG’s Storm Response Unit has to date helped over 5,800 storm victims in New York City and Long Island. This has included assistance with FEMA applications, appeals and recoupments; insurance matters; landlord/tenant disputes; mortgage/foreclosure issues; contractor fraud; and other storm-related legal problems. With more than 2,100 pending legal cases, new cases continue to emerge: 200 in October alone.

One year after the storm, the State’s funding comes at a time when the legal needs of storm victims have become increasingly complex and entrenched. Many New Yorkers are facing multiple, interconnected issues requiring extensive legal advocacy with government agencies, insurance companies, banks, contractors, etc. Cases often take months to complete, with some disputes potentially lingering for years before final resolution.

Superstorm Sandy had a devastating impact on working-poor and low-income New Yorkers. For them, the storm was a tipping point that pushed them over the financial edge, leaving them without the resources to rebuild their homes and their lives. NYLAG has served as a crucial safety net for these clients.

As the State’s major provider of legal services to Sandy victims, NYLAG has a unique model for delivering disaster-related legal services to maximize the number of clients it can serve, and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. This approach combines a community-based intake and triage system; a coordinated legal staff team approach that offers specialized assistance from trained attorneys in all disaster-related legal areas; skillfully leveraged pro bono resources; and an in-house financial counseling division to supplement legal services and help ensure the long-term financial security of storm victims. Through this comprehensive program, NYLAG is able to help clients secure more money quickly, resolve debt and repair disputes, and return to their normal lives.

NYLAG released a comprehensive report documenting the impact of its first year of services for Superstorm Sandy victims. Click here to view/ download the report.