Various companies and professional organizations are stepping up to offer assistance to local residents impacted by storm damage.
Free legal counseling is being provided by two associations of lawyers.
The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys has an agreement with the American Red Cross to offer legal advice without charging fees to storm victims, according to Jeannie Brandstetter, the association's director of communications.
Brandstetter stated in an email that she's concerned some storm victims might be taken advantage of and need legal help to know how to protect themselves.
If storm victims need legal counseling for problems associated with insurance claims, government relief programs, landlord-tenant or housing issues, home repair contracts, consumer protection, mortgage foreclosure or replacement of important legal documents destroyed in a disaster, they can contact Brandstetter at 573-635-5215 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, or 573-230-8528, or email [email protected]. She will refer them to a volunteer for free counseling.
The Missouri Bar's Disaster Recovery Legal Assistance Hotline issued a news release detailing a similar free service for residents and businesses impacted by severe storms.
"Volunteer lawyers throughout our state are at the ready to help our neighbors," Missouri Bar President Ray Williams said. "We are ready to connect callers to the hotline with volunteer lawyers who can help with questions about insurance claims, replacing important legal documents, avoiding scams and how to rebuild."
Those seeking free legal assistance should call the Missouri Bar at 800-829-4128. All calls are screened and then referred to volunteer lawyers who agree to offer a telephone consultation, providing free legal advice for disaster-related problems. Callers who need representation in court or who have issues requiring fee-generating services will be referred to appropriate services.
The Bar also notes residents can receive legal and insurance assistance in-person during Multi-Agency Resource Center disaster relief events planned by the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency. During those events, lawyers will be on site to answer law-related questions surrounding issues and problems facing storm survivors. A Multi-Agency Resource Center is a central location for local and state agencies as well as human service organizations to answer questions and provide information and disaster-related assistance.
The Central Missouri Community Action Cole County Family Resource Center announced it is open in Jefferson City at 1109 Southwest Blvd. to assist families affected by the tornado and to assess needs. CMCA staff will also be at the shelter at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 1201 Fairgrounds Road, where lunch will be provided for families in need at noon. The resource center can be contacted at 573-635-4480 for additional information.
Hy-Vee reports it is partnering with the American Red Cross by sending a mobile unit to Jefferson City to donate meals, snacks and beverages to impacted residents and emergency workers during cleanup efforts. In addition, Hy-Vee will be providing support to shelters in Eldon and Golden City. The Hy-Vee parking lot at 3721 W. Truman Blvd. in Jefferson City is set up as a staging area for people to drop off monetary donations for the Red Cross, as well as water and cleaning supplies.
AT&T, U.S. Cellular and Verizon have announced extra services or waiver of certain fees for a limited time for their cellphone customers in storm damaged areas of Missouri.
Customers of AT&T wireless and prepaid plans with billing addresses in the Jefferson City and Eldon zip codes of 65101, 65109 and 65026 can use unlimited talk, text and data access from now through Monday at no extra charge, regardless of the normal limits on their plans.
Verizon reports it is offering unlimited calling, texting and data to all of its prepaid and postpaid customers located in Central Missouri from now through May 30.
U.S. Cellular advises it has removed speed caps and is waiving overage and late fees for customers in Jefferson City and Eldon. The company also is providing access to the internet, charging stations and on-site staff to help community members at its store in Jefferson City.
In addition, the AT&T Foundation says it is donating $25,000 to the American Red Cross for storm relief, and the Verizon Foundation has announced a $10,000 donation to the Red Cross of Jefferson City to assist with relief efforts. Wireless customers of any company can text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to have a $10 donation to the Red Cross charged to their cellphone bill.
CenturyLink Inc. noted in a news release it is offering its emergency call forwarding service free of charge for 30 consecutive days to residential and small business customers in Jefferson City who were impacted by the tornado. The service allows customers who have been displaced from their home or business to receive their phone calls on an alternate landline or wireless number.
To activate this service, residential customers should call the CenturyLink repair center at 800-788-3600 and identify themselves as a customer affected by the tornado. Small business customers should call 800-786-6272. In addition, CenturyLink has waived late fees incurred for impacted customers for 30 days.