The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Chief Counsel and the CNMI Office of the Attorney General have partnered to implement a unique FEMA-funded Expanded Disaster Legal Services program for the CNMI.
The EDLS program is 100% federally-funded by FEMA, and provides survivors with legal assistance to help resolve landownership issues, which are preventing survivors from participating in FEMA’s Permanent Housing Construction program for Super Typhoon Yutu. The PHC program provides 100% federally-funded repairs or new construction for survivors’ homes from a FEMA contractor.
The Office of the Attorney General is overseeing the EDLS program. The OAG pairs CNMI-licensed attorneys with survivors to assist with resolving landownership issues.
Families who would be ineligible for PHC because they cannot prove legal title can choose to receive legal counsel, paid for by FEMA, to resolve landownership issues so they can be reviewed for eligibility in the PHC program. Generally, there are three types of cases: survey/deed preparation from a surviving landowner, simple probate, and complex probate. There is no cost to survivors for these legal services.
FEMA attorney Linda Litke said, “The amount of support and partnership from the CNMI Attorney General’s Office, the CNMI Judiciary, and the CNMI Bar [Association] has been instrumental in creating this brand-new program for FEMA. The unique landownership laws in the CNMI and common issues with lack of landownership documentation were an obstacle to survivors participating in the PHC program. Through the EDLS program, survivors can choose to get legal assistance to resolve ownership at no cost to the survivor. The partnership between FEMA’s Office of Chief Counsel and the CNMI legal community to create this solution is a testament to the resolve and resiliency of the people of the CNMI. I am very proud to be a part of this solution.” (PR)