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Legal aid programs prepare, respond in face of COVID-19

photos of legal aid staff

As the reality of stay-at-home orders, social distancing and closed businesses set in for Floridians in mid-March, the state’s civil legal aid programs and the Foundation came together to prepare for providing legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foundation and legal aid staff members acted quickly to transition to remote work. In an email to supporters, Bay Area Legal Services acknowledged that they expect their client base to experience mass layoffs, a potential backlog of eviction notices and an increase in domestic violence resulting from stressed people confined to their homes.

Grantee IDignity disseminated a video with each of their staff members explaining how they would continue to work on securing identification for clients and held a virtual volunteer training.

Community Justice Project worked with the Housing Umbrella Group to create an online tool that shows eviction status by county. Florida’s Children First and Florida Youth Shine created digital fliers for reemployment assistance and guidance for professionals working with youth experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus.

The Foundation has also participated in calls with the Florida Civil Legal Aid Association to discuss advocating for a statewide moratorium on evictions and for legal aid to be considered an essential service during the statewide shutdown.

The Foundation has surveyed partners and stakeholders to assess how they are coping and how it can help them manage. In April, the Foundation disseminated information to grantees about the Paycheck Protection Program, which allows them to apply for forgivable loans to pay their employees.

It has also created a page on its website with resources for lawyers and the public, and kicked off a social media campaign to raise awareness that legal aid programs are open and continuing to work on cases.