BATON ROUGE — After the disastrous flooding last August in Louisiana, more than 2,500 victims were denied relief by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to a news release.

The reason these victims, who had their homes damaged as a result of the flooding, were denied relief by FEMA, is that they were not able to provide sufficient proof of ownership of their homes. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation issued a statement explaining the issue in the December press release that “(t)housands of people live in homes that they don't own outright because properties were passed on to family members without successions.”

In order to find a solution to this problem and allow those affected by the flood to receive aid, BRAF is completing a program that will help those effected by the floods clear property titles. This will make them eligible for the federal grants which will go toward repairing their flooded houses.

The program, which also is made possible with support from a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, will also make use of a smartphone app to will make the process faster and more efficient by streamlining the personal information. According to the news release, BRAF believes that this will not only speed up the process, but also will allow attorneys and other professionals clear even more titles in a reduced amount of time as well.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation collaborated with the American Bar Association Center for Innovation and Stanford University Law School in creating the app.

According to the news release, the aim of BRAF is to clear 500 titles, while searching for ongoing funding in order to further continue the program.

“Our goal over the next year is to secure permanent funding to continue this program as long as it's needed,” BRAF project manager Lauren Crapanzano Jumonville said in the release. “Turning people into homeowners has proven to be among the best mechanisms for reclaiming neighborhoods.”

The program is being overseen by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, which is partnering other organizations, including the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Southern University Law Center, Louisiana Appleseed and Louisiana State University Law Clinic. SLLS also is partnering with the Baton Rouge Bar Association, Equal Justice Works, East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, Louisiana Bar Foundation and the Louisiana State Bar Foundation.

“Civil legal aid is an essential, yet overlooked, component of disaster recovery for lower-income people and communities,” SLLS Executive Director Laura Tuggle said. “We know the importance of tackling unresolved title problems that pose a barrier to recovery funding, insurance proceeds, and a family's ability to obtain capital to rebuild their homes. We are so grateful to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for investing in justice to help families and neighborhoods rebound after disaster.”

According to its website, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has already granted more than $3 million to nonprofits and schools in the efforts for disaster recovery.

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