The pandemic means that providing the same goods and services to customers and clients is more difficult. But technology has provided ways to make things easier in some cases. For example, many professionals are providing information services online. Teachers conduct class via Zoom video conferencing. Even lawyers have found ways to conduct their business remotely — some are even setting up firms devoted to remote services!
But the need is even greater for remote pro bono services due to the coronavirus pandemic. In part, this is because those who have the most need can’t properly navigate public assistance programs — especially those that are brand new. Many people don’t even know which programs they qualify for. Who qualifies for unemployment benefits for the upcoming stimulus package? Who qualifies for the new $600 check? Whose landlords can place an eviction notice during this crisis?
These questions are sometimes difficult to answer alone, which is why the need for free legal assistance is so critical, now and over the next few months as the vaccine is rolled out.
Immigrants have been especially hurt because government assistance programs have tried to bypass them entirely — especially those who are undocumented. DACA protections have been reimplemented, but support networks for the Dreamers still need to be maintained. That means legal assistance must be made available.
These protections are mostly provided remotely now. For example, Chicago’s King County court rolled out a new system so domestic violence survivors can electronically register for a protection order (against the alleged abuser) rather than appear in court in person, which was the way it was done before the first cases of COVID arose in the United States.
King County Bar Association has also led the Housing Justice Project (HJP) to help tenants avoid unfair eviction, providing counseling when needed. Other resources have been made widely available and can be found with a simple search online.