Posted August 20, 202012:08 pm
The coronavirus pandemic cast a spotlight on existing inequities and systemic barriers to opportunity in our society – then proceeded to exacerbate these issues.
In response, Legal Aid has not slowed down or paused any critical services during this time of great community need. On the contrary, we’ve expanded programs, hired new staff, and doubled down on advocacy efforts as the challenges of poverty are intensifying and affecting more people. Online intake is open 24/7 and phone intake is available during select business hours. Our staff are in touch with their clients and partners via phone, text, video, and email. Through all this, remote work remains the default for Legal Aid’s entire team of nearly 100 staff, with a limited number of staff at the office to handle emergency matters, filings, and urgent in-person tasks.
We’ve helped many people throughout Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain counties with challenges related to the pandemic over the past few months. Below are some of their stories. (All names have been changed to protect client privacy.)
Laurie lives in private housing with her three sons. To pay her monthly rent, she uses cash assistance she gets from Ohio Works First, and her son helps cover the rest with his income from working for a food delivery service. Unfortunately, Laurie’s son’s income dipped dramatically due to the COVID19 pandemic, and the family has been
unable to pay rent. Laurie reached out to Legal Aid for help. Laurie’s Legal Aid attorney, Karen Wu, secured three months of rental assistance from EDEN, an agency that is administering funds set aside by the county for emergency rent relief. Attorney Wu coordinated the gathering of necessary documents, helped Laurie complete her application, and negotiated with Laurie’s landlord, who agreed to accept the late rent and not evict her. Laurie’s application was recently approved, and she covered her rent for March, April, and May.
Molly was temporarily unable to work at her job at a day care around the time of the statewide Stay at Home orders. Several weeks later, she was called back to work as day care was officially considered an “essential service.” As a young single mother, she was unable to find childcare for her own young children and was therefore not able to return to work. This led to a discontinuation of her unemployment compensation. Molly called Legal Aid for help and was referred to Legal Aid’s new Virtual Advice Clinic. Volunteer attorney Jason Dawicke, Esq. counseled Molly that she should be entitled to benefits through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. Attorney Dawicke worked with Molly to develop a plan to appeal the decision and apply for relief under the CARES Act. Molly is now receiving her unemployment benefits as well as an extra $600 a week through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. These benefits were Molly’s sole source of financial support during the pandemic while she couldn’t have child care.
Tanya is a single adult who lives in a Cleveland suburb. The local court ordered a 45-day moratorium on evictions, but Tanya’s landlord would have none of it – he wanted her out, and locked her out of her apartment during a period when the Ohio governor had ordered everyone to stay at home. Tanya sought help from Legal Aid, and a team of lawyers, led by Legal Aid attorney Maria Smith, prepared to file for a temporary restraining order. However, once opposing counsel learned of Legal Aid’s engagement, Ms. Jones got new keys to her apartment. Having an attorney by her side saved Tanya from endangering her health and losing her home.
Learn more about Legal Aid’s COVID-19 response at www.lasclev.org/coronavirus.