By Michael S. Lockett
The Alaska Bar Association, partnering with the Alaska Legal Service Corporation, launched a hotline Monday for those dealing with noncriminal legal issues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The idea was actually pretty early on in the pandemic. While we were all working to navigate the new working situation, it took a little while to get off the ground,” Krista Scully, the pro bono director for the Alaska Bar Association, said in a phone interview. “We hope that this could be useful for people for figuring out their next step. All the volunteers are ready to give brief information or consultation.
The hotline will operate 6-8 p.m. three days a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Each day will have a different focus, Scully said. Mondays will be employment-related, Wednesdays will be family law and Fridays will be for debt and foreclosure issues, Scully said.
“Say a person was furloughed and they receive unemployment. If they were offered a job, but they feel the job isn’t safe due to COVID, what do they do? They can call a volunteer lawyer and see what they can do,” Scully said. “Maybe somebody gets calls from their creditors because they can’t pay their credit cards, which they’re using more because of COVID. What do they do?”
The hotline is underwritten by GCI, Scully said. Lawyers from across the state will volunteer their time to help answer noncriminal legal questions.
“A caller from Juneau might be talking to someone in Fairbanks or Anchorage,” Scully said. “It’s one volunteer at a time. It’s the same model that Alaska Legal Service Corporation uses.”
While it’s slated to run until September, Scully said, that could change subject to the needs of the public.
“It was timed to launch before the CARES Act expired. We’ll see how it goes, assess the call volume and the need,” Scully said. “If the call volume is there we may extend it.”
Some other states have similar programs in place, Scully said, but it’s a first for Alaska. They’re also looking for other ways to help provide legal assistance in the times of coronavirus.
“Even though we don’t have a law school here in Alaska, there are law students thinking through how we can do that here in Alaska,” Scully said. “It’s important to note that it’s a partnership between the Alaska Bar Association and the Alaska Legal Services Corporation. They do this kind of work day in and day out.”
The hotline is at 1-844-263-1849 from 6-8 p.m. on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Each day has a specific purpose. Mondays will be employment-related, Wednesdays will be family law, and Fridays will be for debt and foreclosure issues.
“It’s possible that the line will be busy. Keep calling. Keep trying. AlaskaLawHelp.org has a section dedicated to COVID things. There’s also a free online legal clinic for people who are financially eligible, Alaska.freelegalanswers.org,” Scully said. “Financial income eligibility has been adjusted for people who may have lost their job or are temporarily unemployed.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or email@example.com.