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Lawyers Donate Time To Help Those Affected By Sandy

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If you've been affected by Sandy, NY1 has tips for how to make sure you get the benefits you're entitled to, with help from lawyers donating their time and expertise. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.

A generator hums in the backyard of Homemade, a Red Hook restaurant that is still closed and still without power more than two weeks since Sandy made her mark in the city.

Co-owner Monica Byrne says recovery has been overwhelming for her business and others in the hard-hit neighborhood.

"Because of the corrosive quality of the salt water, everyone's electric needs to be redone, people have to pull out their drywall, basements completely are gone," Byrne says. "All of our equipment, compressors, refrigerators, all of the things that we use in the restaurant industry and in the convenience stores and the bars, all destroyed."

Once the power is back on, Byrne says she'll pour her energy into other pressing issues.

"Phase two is going to be looking at 'where do we stand, what are our rights, what are our landlord's obligations, what are our obligations, where do we stand with our contracts, our insurance,' that sort of thing," she says.

Byrne recently connected with Bill Lienhard of Volunteers of Legal Service at a community event, someone who she says will be a critical resource in the coming weeks. His organization is one of several offering free legal assistance to victims of Sandy.

"Some of the folks I've spoken to said, 'I'd love to show you my lease but it was under water, I have no legal records,'" Lienhard said. "That is a situation that will create a lot of very difficult legal problems to resolve on their own."

Lienhard says volunteer lawyers are also helping with FEMA applications, applying for food stamps as well as disaster unemployment assistance, which now has a deadline of February 4.

"There are a whole bunch of legal needs, just around the applications, procedures, and then those same folks will have needs around when they get denied," Lienhard says. "They are going to need lawyers to help them appeal those denials, and they are going to need lawyers to make sure that they actually get all those benefits they are eligible to."

For more information on securing pro bono legal assistance, go to www.lawhelp.org/ny.

To volunteer, lawyers should go to www.probono.net/ny.

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