Jessica Radbord, Vermont Poverty Law Fellow, 2010-2012

Jessica Radbord, Vermont Poverty Law Fellow 2010-2012Jessica Radbord served as the second Vermont Poverty Law Fellow from 2010-12. Her project initially focused on substandard rental housing and lack of adequate rental housing safety code enforcement. She provided legal services to tenants in the form of full representation in court to obtain injunctive relief and damages, advocacy to obtain the assistance of state and local code enforcement officials, and advice over the telephone.  Jessica also offered several trainings and conducted presentations on tenants’ rights.

After floods hit much of Vermont in May 2011, Jessica gained some experience working with FEMA and flood insurers. That August, in the immediate aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, she put her experience with flood-related legal issues to work representing survivors of the disaster.

Jessica worked with homeowners and renters appealing their FEMA awards, helped families obtain Disaster Unemployment Assistance, and represented homeowners participating in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, a property acquisition project that applies to cases in which flooding left homes uninhabitable.

Along with state officials, non-profit agencies, and representatives of FEMA, Jessica served on Vermont’s Irene Housing Task Force, which addressed the housing needs of residents impacted by the storm. During the winter of 2011, Jessica chaired the housing subcommittee of the Irene Property Law Task Force, convened by Senate President Pro-Tem John Campbell. Jessica engaged in outreach across Vermont and offered advice and information to members of the private bar who provided pro bono assistance to homeowners and to caseworkers focused on long-term recovery.

Jessica also played a key role in developing the Vermont Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer Disaster Legal Assistance Services Manual, which is available on the Vermont Bar Association website. Following Superstorm Sandy, Jessica shared this resource with attorneys in New York and New Jersey , providing them with guidance and advice on their cases and the issues confronting them and their clients in the aftermath of that storm.

In 2013, the Vermont Bar Association honored Jessica with the VBA President’s Award for her work on the disaster law manual. But the impact of Jessica’s assistance for survivors of Irene extended well beyond that work. According to Tracy Payne, whose Jamaica, VT home washed away down Ball Mountain Brook during Tropical Storm Irene:

“Even though the process took a very long 2 1/2 years, Jessica Radbord saw me through the darkest moments of my life and never once left my side as I feared I would never be able to recover from the losses I sustained in the wake of Hurricane Irene. I feel indebted to Jessica and VT Legal Aid for navigating the extremely unpredictable and complicated HMGP process for me. Without their help, my neighbors and I would not have recovered a penny for our losses. I am absolutely sure of that. Thank you Jessica and VT Legal Aid from the bottom of my heart.”

Ms. Payne and her neighbors recovered almost half a million dollars.

Jessica is now a Staff Attorney in the Burlington office of Vermont Legal Aid.  She continues to work with tenants and flood survivors, as well as handling foreclosure defense and subsidized housing eviction defense cases.  In 2012, she was interviewed by Vermont Public Radio along with two of her Irene clients.

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