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Kentucky Legal Aid receives $3 million from nonprofit for disaster legal aid

Mayfield tornado damage
Derek Operle
/
Damage to homes in Mayfield after the December 2021 tornado outbreak.

Kentucky Legal Aid will receive more than $3 million from the Legal Service Corporation to support the group’s continued legal aid response to the December tornado outbreak.

The funding is a part of the $38 million LSC is giving to 19 legal aid organizations in regions impacted by natural disasters. KLA services 15 of the 16 counties in the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declaration. The funding for LSC was a part of the emergency supplemental appropriation passed by Congress in September 2021.

Kristy Vick-Stratton, the lead disaster response attorney for KLA, said LSC already provided the group with some funding support.

“After the disaster, we communicated with them and were made aware that they had funding specifically for natural disasters, so we filled out the grant application so that we could also receive funding specifically related to [the] disaster,” Vick-Stratton said.

KLA started their disaster response before the funding came in from LSC.

Vick-Stratton said the group started with community outreach in disaster-impacted areas, getting boots on the ground to make sure people knew how to reach them if they needed assistance from KLA. The support they can provide includes helping with FEMA applications and appeals, replacing important documents that were lost in the storm, and helping with disaster unemployment.

“We're just continuing as the needs arise for individuals who've been impacted by disaster as they're facing maybe insurance issues, scams – a lot of scammers come into the community after natural disasters happen and try to take advantage of individuals, so addressing those issues,” Vick-Stratton said. “If there are landlord-tenant issues of someone who's been displaced and a landlord may be trying to collect rent or not allow them access to the property to get personal belongings, things like that. We're also trying to help individuals with that.”

This funding for LSC helps solidify Vick-Stratton’s position and a position in outreach and communications since many people affected by December’s tornadoes live in more rural areas. It also helps create a new case management system that will allow KLA to better serve those that rely on their services and better share information with other organizations to help their clients.

For Vick-Stratton, the message to get out to people is that KLA can help.

“A lot of times people may not realize with an issue that they're facing that there's actually a legal component to that as well,” Vick-Stratton said. “If we are able to do extended outreach to those communities, they know to contact us, and then we can help them deal with something.”

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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