Tidbits and Thoughts . . .  Legal Aid's Online  News
May 4, 2020
1950 - 2020
A Legacy of Service in the Pursuit of Fairness and Justice
  



"Our work is all about our community. Serving our people, especially during the toughest of times, is what brings out our humanity. We are grateful to have the trust of the people we serve, and are here for those in need."
Legal Aid's outreach specialist John Kaaihue with Fred  under the Nimitz overpass on Oahu. 

Now on to Tidbits!
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Executive Director

        
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested all of us as we all react to a crisis in different ways. From initial feelings of fear and uncertainty we moved quickly and seamlessly as an organization to action.

In the last month, Legal Aid staff have produced Q & As, legal information sheets, infographics, and videos to help the public navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic. These materials cover health, housing, employment, food, family and children, financial assistance, immigration, seniors and the courts. Mindful of the on-going need for language access, most materials are translated into Chuukese and Marshallese and we are working to translate materials into other languages as well. These materials can be found on our website at: www.legalaidhawaii.org.

Staff have also taken to the airwaves in on-air interviews with news and radio stations and been featured in publications across the state.

Eviction and unemployment calls continue to increase. Landlords are locking out tenants in violation of the law and in response we are providing representation and revamped our court forms on illegal lockouts and illegal utility shutoffs. We have created step-by-step videos to assist in applying for unemployment and are also advocating for stronger language access to the unemployment system. We have also trained many of our outreach staff to assist with unemployment applications where the digital divide is limiting access.

Our homeless outreach staff continue to be in the community, bringing services to those most in need. Staff with our medical legal partnerships with Waimanalo Health Center and West Hawai'i Community Health Center are also on site and available via telephone appointment to help bridge the gap with legal services to help address social determinants of health. Recently, we began working to re-open Self-Help Centers and Access to Justice Rooms virtually with pro bono attorneys and the courts.

Our work over the last month is a testament to the amazing and dedicated staff who work at Legal Aid. In the midst of this crisis, our services are even more critical to the safety net of our community. As an organization, we touch almost every aspect of a person's life when they are in crisis and are a resource to help remove barriers, to advocate and to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community have their basic needs met.

We appreciate your support in the past and ask that you continue to Support Justice for Disaster Relief.

Malama pono,

- M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina
Executive Director
#LegalAidhelps

"What I want people to know about Legal Aid is that they restored my faith in our legal system."

Before I came to Legal Aid, I was frustrated and angry because I had taken my minivan to a dealership's service department with specific instructions on what to repair. After a month I was finally called to pick it up. Upon arrival I was shocked when I discovered that despite my instructions, they had repaired an item which was not being covered by my service contract. Furthermore, the employee stated that he would not release my vehicle to me unless I paid $2,000 for the extra repairs. I refused and they held my van for another four months. 

Legal Aid helped me by contacting the dealership on my behalf to help get my van back. I am almost 70 years old and being without my van caused me great inconvenience, anguish and physical hardship. Because I live in a semi-rural area the bus was not always available. I often had to walk between 1-3 miles from the transit center because I chose to attend an evening church activity in town or spent time with my grand-babies. 

Due to Legal Aid's help, I was able to get my van back. The attorney explained my personal situation to the dealership's representative along with a keen knowledge and understanding of the State Auto Repair Laws. My attorney advised me of my rights and negotiated a settlement for the release of my vehicle and I did not have to pay a cent for the unauthorized repairs. 

What I want people to know about Legal Aid is that they restored my faith in our legal system. After being swindled out of my home of 46 years, I believed that justice was nothing but a good scrabble word. However, my Legal Aid attorney treated me with respect and most of all, she really listened to what I had to say. She researched the pertinent laws and advocated for me against the representative of a large corporation. She even complimented me for doing my homework and learning about the Auto Repair and Fair Trade laws etc. on my own. Unlike my former experience with the legal system, my Legal Aid Attorney Joni Domingues saw to it that "Justice did prevail!" 

Mahalo Joni and Legal Aid from the bottom of my heart.

-Elizabeth, 69 received help through the Kupuna Legal Aid Services project which provides legal assistance for seniors age 60 and over.

Housing Issues During COVID-19


Fair Housing Issues During COVID-19

Justice for Disaster Relief

During this COVID-19 crisis, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i is fighting to continue Building a Just Society. You can help make a difference today.
Legal Aid attorney Janet Kelly answers questions as part of the outreach team to help people experiencing homelessness. 

We are working tirelessly to protect the rights of vulnerable clients and communities in Hawaii. But our fight is just beginning.

Today, you can help us as we take a stand for all those who need disaster relief. Your gift during this crisis means more than ever. Join us as we provide Justice for Disaster Relief throughout Hawaii.

Make a  Gift Online or you can make a tax-deductible gift by sending your check to the address:

Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i
Diana Y. Kim
Director of External Relations
924 Bethel Street
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
(808) 536-4302
diana.kim@legalaidhawaii.org

Checks should be written out to the "Legal Aid Society of Hawaii."
70th Anniversary (1950 - 2020)

#70for70

As part of its year long 70th Anniversary activities, Legal Aid will share 70 tidbits about its history throughout the year. Thank you to the longest continuously serving Legal Aid Board Member (1999-2020) Naomi Fujimoto for providing the following tidbits.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald (left), Legal Aid's Executive Director M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina (center), and former State Librarian Richard Burns (right) introduced the Hawaii Self-Help Interactive Forms project in 2014.

11.  Legal Aid, the Hawaii State Bar Association and the Judiciary worked together to establish workstations at the self-help centers across the state to provide public access to the Hawaii Self-Help Interactive Forms in December of 2013.  The online interface and legal forms assist self-represented litigants by providing a series of questions or interviews using plain language and filling in the legal forms with the answers. In August of 2014, the Hawaii State Library System partnered in and expanded this endeavor by allowing library patrons to access the forms on computers at the public libraries.

12.  The Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center, formerly known as Na Loio, became a division of Legal Aid.  It is currently known as the Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.

13.   In 1995, Legal Aid established a statewide legal hotline offering free and immediate legal advice and/or referrals to income eligible callers. The hotline has served as a model for many Legal Aid offices nationwide.

14.  In 2017, Legal Aid launched the Hawaii Legal Services Portal to direct people to the appropriate resource based on their legal needs by providing a central location for self-represented litigants to access legal information from various organizations.

15.  In 2016, Legal Aid launched a series of self-help legal information videos on its website and YouTube channel. The videos include topics on: Landlord-Tenant Basics, Eviction, Divorce, Adoption, Court Resources, and many more. A number of the videos are available in Marshallese, Chuukese, and Ilocano. 
Serving the Community
        
Kona Court Self-Help Center to Provide Legal Help to West Hawaii Community
The Kona Court Self-Help Center will provide legal help to the West Hawaii community on a pilot basis on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteer attorneys from the West Hawaii Bar Association will provide limited legal information by telephone in areas such as landlord-tenant, family, and other district court matters. Please call 808-437-7557. Your call will be answered by an AmeriCorps Advocate who will connect you with the attorney.
 
Opened in 2013, the Kona Court Self-Help Center is a collaborative effort of the Judiciary, the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the West Hawaii Bar Association, AmeriCorps, and the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii to increase access to justice for self-represented litigants.

Hawaii Public Radio: Legal rights during the pandemic
Tatjana Johnson, managing attorney for Legal Aid's Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center was on Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation" to discuss the legal resources available to help the public better understand their rights during this pandemic.

Legal Aid Society Posts COVID-19 Guide On Understanding Rights
By Chad Blair
April 10, 2020
Civil Beat 

Subjects include landlord-tenant law, public benefits and family law.

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii on Friday announced that it has prepared online resources, legal court forms and "other critical legal information" to help the public understand their rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It can be accessed through the group's website and covers subject areas such as landlord-tenant law, public benefits and family law, according to a press release.


A screen shot from Legal Aid Society of Hawaii's website this month.

"With much of our community going through this challenging time, ensuring that people can access critical legal help is more important now than ever," said executive director M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina.

She continued: "Many will have questions about how this impacts their families, their housing, and their livelihoods. We may all feel vulnerable right now and Legal Aid will continue to do its best to provide some stability through our legal system."

All Legal Aid online resources are free to the public and available in Chuukese and Marshallese.

The organization is a non-profit, public interest law firm "dedicated to increasing access to justice for the state's most vulnerable and disadvantaged people."

Legal Aid Continues Outreach Services
Legal Aid's outreach specialist John Kaaihue with Tim.

outreach
Outreach Specialist Emil Romolor at the Punawai Rest Stop on Oahu.

As Job Losses Mount, Affordable Health Coverage Is Available On Healthcare.Gov
 
Individuals who do not qualify for Med-Quest insurance should enroll in comprehensive, affordable coverage on HealthCare.gov before time runs out.
 
With unprecedented unemployment during this public health and economic crisis, many have lost their job-based health insurance and applied for health insurance with Med-QUEST. If people do not qualify for Med-QUEST insurance, they can apply for federal marketplace insurance through Healthcare.gov, but they must act quickly.
 
The federal marketplace offers health insurance and subsidies for premiums and cost-shares based on people's projected income. Unlike Med-QUEST insurance, enrollees usually pay some out-of-pocket costs for the health coverage.
 
Individuals who lose their job-based coverage qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) on HealthCare.gov. This opens up a 60-day window to enroll in coverage, often with financial assistance that reduces monthly costs. If they miss the chance to enroll, they may be unable to enroll in coverage on HealthCare.gov until November 1, 2020, for coverage beginning in 2021.
 
Individuals who didn't have insurance through their employer and are currently uninsured may still be able to enroll in coverage if they experience a life event that qualifies them for an SEP, such as getting married or having a baby. Applicants can go to www.HealthCare.gov/screener to find out if they qualify for an SEP.
 
Consumers enrolling in a plan on HealthCare.gov are guaranteed to receive comprehensive coverage, with no pre-existing condition exclusions or markups. HealthCare.gov plans are required to cover essential health benefits such as prescription drugs, lab services, or hospitalization. Testing and treatment of COVID-19 are considered essential health benefits and are covered by all HealthCare.gov plans, and testing is covered with no cost sharing.
 
Consumers should avoid insurance plans offered outside of HealthCare.gov that advertise products that do not comply with Affordable Care Act regulations. These products are available due to loosened regulations and pose financial risks to consumers. Such products may deny coverage to consumers with pre-existing conditions, charge consumers more based on their gender, reject claims altogether for health care services related to a pre-existing condition, and impose annual coverage limits.
 
The health insurance landscape can be confusing, but free, local help is available. For help navigating the enrollment process, please visit www.healthcare.gov or call Healthcare.gov at 1-800-318-2596 or the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii at 808-536-4302, option 2.