Disaster Relief Resources

  • Para documentos y videos en Español, clic aquí.

  • If you’re an attorney wishing to volunteer or obtain volunteer resources, click here.

  • If you would like to donate money to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, click here.

When disasters strike Texas, the State Bar serves as a clearinghouse for disaster response resources for the public and attorneys.

The State Bar of Texas legal hotline — (800) 504-7030 — helps people find answers to basic legal questions by connecting them with local legal aid providers following declared disasters. The toll-free hotline — answered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese— is designed to connect low-income people affected by a disaster with legal aid providers in their area who can help with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant problems, and consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. Callers can leave a message any time. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help.

If you need a lawyer, contact the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service at (800) 252-9690 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Texas Legal Answers

Texas Legal Answers — texaslegalanswers.org — is a free online legal advice clinic that allows Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey to post questions about their civil legal issues and receive answers from volunteer attorneys.

Disaster Relief for Attorneys

The State Bar of Texas helps to connect attorney volunteers to disaster-related service opportunities. If you are an attorney, law student, or paralegal who wants to volunteer, please fill out this online form.

Disaster resources for attorneys can be found here.

Disaster Declaration for Hurricane Harvey – August 2017

On Aug. 25, President Donald J. Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the state of Texas, making federal funding available for emergency work and to individuals and businesses owners who sustain damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for dozens of Texas counties that suffered severe flooding, storm surge, and damaging winds.

Locating Emergency Shelters or Housing

Shelters are open across the affected and surrounding areas. You can download the Federal Emergency Management Agency's mobile app for shelter information, weather alerts, and safety tips. The app is available in English and Spanish and provides directions to open shelters, survival tips, and weather alerts from the National Weather Service.

You can find a list of open Red Cross shelters here.

How to Apply for Federal Assistance

Recovery specialists from the state, FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other agencies will be at the centers to provide assistance information and to help anyone who needs guidance in filing an application.

To assist people and businesses in the recovery process, the State of Texas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have opened Disaster Recovery Centers in several counties. The centers offer in-person support to individuals and businesses who are included in the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent floods. Disaster survivors can visit any of the centers for assistance.

To locate a Disaster Recovery Center near you, click here.

Disaster Recovery Centers are accessible to people with disabilities and have assistive technology for people with hearing and vision loss. Video Remote Interpreting is available and in-person sign language is available by request.

If possible, people should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center. Eligible residents may register for assistance the following ways:

  • Online by filling out an application here.

  • Phone 800-621-3362

  • Via the FEMA app, available for Apple and Android mobile devices. To download visit: fema.gov/mobile-app.

There are instructions on how to file your claim here.

Know your FEMA Rights: Read this special publication by Reed Smith LLP and the Texas Young Lawyers Association to understand your FEMA rights.

The Small Business Administration offers low-interest, long-term disaster loans to small businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters to repair or replace uninsured/underinsured disaster damaged property. To learn more, visit the SBA’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery web page.

Replacing Lost Documents

This guide created by the Texas Young Lawyers Association is intended to be an abbreviated checklist to help you obtain replacements of some of those necessary documents.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has a helpful guide full of tips on replacing lost documents. It is available here in English and in Spanish .

Law on Certain Insurance Claims Changed September 1, 2017 

House Bill 1774, passed during the latest Texas legislative session, changed the law as it applies to lawsuits relating to certain property insurance claims, including property damage and loss caused by natural disasters. However, the law does not change how homeowners file a claim, deadlines to file claims, or how insurers process claims, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. It also does not apply to claims with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association or the National Flood Insurance Program. 

The new law applies to insurance claims and lawsuits filed on or after September 1, 2017. It requires certain pre-lawsuit notices by property owners, changes the amount of interest payable on claims that are determined to be underpaid or paid late, and may affect the amount of attorneys’ fees recoverable in a lawsuit.

The Texas Department of Insurance issued a statement on August 30 reassuring Texas policyholders that storm claims would be paid and that the agency would aggressively enforce state laws and policy provisions to protect victims of Hurricane Harvey and the widespread flooding that followed. This topic was covered in this story in the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle.

If you are a property owner with questions about whether or how this change in the law may affect you, you should consult an attorney. If you need an attorney, call the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service toll-free at (800) 252-9690 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. If your property was damaged by Hurricane Harvey, you may qualify for free, limited legal help by calling the State Bar of Texas legal hotline at (800) 504-7030. 

Insurance Help

The Texas Department of Insurance has created a special web page of helpful tips and resources for individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey.

This presentation provides an overview on filing flood insurance claims. 

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has created a disaster relief guide to homeowners insurance in English and Spanish. The agency also has a guide to property loss claims in English and in Spanish.

Other tips on filing insurance claims can be found here.

VIDEO: Learn more about filing insurance claims for damage related to Hurricane Harvey

Renters Rights

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has created this guide to help people understand their rights after the property they were renting was damaged in a disaster. It is also available in Spanish.

The agency also created this guide to lockout threats made by landlords. Here it is in English and in Spanish.

Also see this guide: A Legal Self-Help Guide for Tenants Affected by Natural Disaster

Employment Issues

The Texas Workforce Commission is accepting applications for Disaster Unemployment Assistance in several counties as a result of severe weather due to Hurricane Harvey. To find more information and apply online go to: ui.texasworkforce.org. For more information, including whether you qualify, call an unemployment tele-center toll-free at 800-939-6631 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The National Employment Law Project created this fact sheet: Disaster Unemployment Assistance: How Workers Can Access the Program After Hurricane Harvey

You can learn more about employment during natural disasters through this guide created by the Texas Young Lawyers Association.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid also has disaster relief employment information in English and in Spanish.

Tax Assistance

The Internal Revenue Service is providing help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Special tax relief and assistance is available to taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Areas. For more information, see the IRS’ Help for Victims of Harvey web page.

Educational Issues

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid is collaborating with the Educational Opportunities Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to provide greater access to education and special education legal services for students and families displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The Lawyers' Committee has created an online intake form and a hotline to connect applicants quickly and efficiently to legal advocates.

The hotline number is 844-PREP-4-US (844-773-7487) and the online form (in both English and Spanish) is available HERE.

Qualifying applicants financially eligible for legal services may be referred for advice or representation to the education and special education attorneys at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Other applicants may be assisted by the Lawyers’ Committee or connected to private attorneys and other legal professionals.

The Texas Young Lawyers Association has created this guide for enrolling your child in another school after a natural disaster.

Watch this video to learn more about education rights after Hurricane Harvey.

Immigrant Assistance

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has created a video to explain Immigrant assistance opportunities after Hurricane Harvey. The video is available in English and in Spanish.

The Texas Immigrant Rights Hotline provides information about changing immigration laws and offers referrals to legal services providers and attorneys. The hotline operates 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (except holidays). The number is 1-833-HOU-IMMI.

Scams and Price Gouging

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following tips to avoid contractor fraud during the clean-up and rebuilding process:

  • Contact an insurance adjuster to get an estimate of the damage and repair cost.

  • Don’t sign a check from your insurance company over to a contractor.

  • Only do business with licensed or bonded contractors or builders. Get multiple estimates.

  • Be cautious of contractors who solicit services door-to-door, especially those that are unfamiliar or from out of town and try to pressure you into signing a contract on the spot.

  • Get the salesperson’s license plate number.

  • Consult the Better Business Bureau to ensure you are working with a trustworthy business.

  • Ask for referrals from people you trust and for references from contractors.

  • Get more than one estimate on work, so you know if you’re being overcharged. Don’t be rushed into signing a contract and never pay in full up-front for promised work.

  • Consider paying by credit card to avail yourself of additional protections.

  • Get everything in writing, including the terms of any warranty, and keep a copy of all documents.

Additional information to help Hurricane Harvey victims protect against disaster-related scams is available on the attorney general’s website. Consumers can report suspicious or fraudulent activity by filing a complaint online.

Learn more about home repair scams here.

Read the Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Contractor or Other Professional After a Natural Disaster [PDF]. It is also available in Spanish.



Barratry or Improper Solicitation by an Attorney 

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. 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 Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office Toll Free at 866-224-5999.



Legal Hotlines:

Houston — The Houston Bar Association’s LegalLine will have volunteer attorneys answering calls from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Extended LegalLine hours will be available from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Oct. 27. The public can call 713-759-1133 or the toll-free number provided by the State Bar of Texas at 1-866-959-1133. Callers will be able to speak to volunteer attorneys who will answer their questions, provide brief legal advice, and refer them to appropriate resources for help. The attorneys will be able to answer questions on insurance, landlord/issues, contracts, lost documents, FEMA matters, and other disaster-related topics.

Jefferson County Area — The Jefferson County Bar Association is offering a free disaster-related legal hotline at 409-719-5999 from 3-5 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Residents of southeast Texas who were affected by Hurricane Harvey and who have legal questions can call and get free legal advice over the phone from a licensed volunteer attorney.

DISASTER RELIEF CONTACTS & RESOURCES

Please review the contacts and resources listed below. They can help you prepare for, survive, and recover from a disaster.

Non-profits

American Red Cross

(800) HELP-NOW

Salvation Army

(800) SAL-ARMY

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

(855) 626-7600

Texas Resources 

State of Texas

(877) 452-9060

Texas Emergency Preparedness Resources

Texas Division of Emergency Management

Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection

(800) 621-0508

Texas Department of Insurance

(800) 578-4677

Texas Department of Health and Human Services

(800) 436-6184

Texas Rural Mediation Services

(866) 329-3522

2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Network

(877) 541-7905

Legal Resources 

State Bar of Texas Legal Disaster Hotline

(800) 504-7030

The State Bar of Texas

(800) 204-2222

State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral & Information Services

(800) 252-9690

Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, Inc.

(866) 303-8303

Dallas Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service

(214) 220-7444

Houston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service

(713) 237-9429

San Antonio Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service

(210) 227-1853

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas

(855) 548-8457 

Lone Star Legal Aid

(800) 733-8394

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid

(866) 757-1570

Texas Legal Services Center

(800) 622-2520

TexasLawHelp.org

 

Texas Legal Answers

 

National Disaster Legal Aid website

Center for Law and the Public's Health

Federal Resources 

Flu.gov

(800) 232-4636

FEMA’s Federal Disaster Assistance Process for Individuals

(800) 621-FEMA (3362)

Department of Homeland Security

(202) 282-8000

Government Benefits Search

(800) 333-4636

Administration for Community Living

(202) 619-0724

Dept. of Health and Human Services

(877) 696-6775

Centers for Disease Control

(800) CDC-INFO

Small Business Administration

(800) 659-2955

Weather Safety Tips

For safety tips related to tornadoes, thunderstorms, and flooding, visit the Texas Department of Public Safety Severe Weather Awareness Web page.

Psychological & Counseling Resources 

Recovering Emotionally from a Disaster (American Psychological Association)

Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Phases of Traumatic Stress Reactions in a Disaster

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Texas Department of State Health Services

Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (for Texas lawyers, judges and law students)

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