Aug 20, 2020Free legal assistance for Florida farmworkers available through hotline
Farmworkers across the state can now call a toll-free number, 1-844-44FARMWORKERS (OR 1-844-443-2769) to get free legal assistance with issues on the rise because of the COVID-19 crisis. Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS), a non-profit law firm, has launched the line specifically catered to the needs of Florida farmworkers, with a live response team available during extended hours and communication in three languages.
“We are proud of this unique opportunity to provide emergency services to migrant farmworkers statewide,” Jaffe Pickett, executive director of FRLS, said in a news release. “We realized that because of the pandemic, these workers, who already face many challenges, are now in emergency situations and our goal is to ensure there are no barriers to accessing our migrant unit.”
Because of the virus, farmworkers, especially migrant workers, are being denied unemployment, food stamps and other public benefits they might normally get, putting them in desperate circumstances. In addition, they have had to work closely together without proper PPE. The corona virus has also exacerbated other issues that have been occurring for years, including wage theft, discrimination, human trafficking and physical abuse.
In Florida, 60% of farmworkers are Hispanic, while 20% are Haitian and 20% are English-speaking. When they call the FARMWORKERS HOTLINE, they will hear a greeting in English, Spanish and Creole and then be directed to assistance in the language requested. Between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., a caller will be able to speak with migrant unit response team members in person.
Non-profit organizations providing assistance to farmworkers are also encouraged to call. FRLS assists their members and the organizations themselves. FRLS represents nonprofit corporations, community-based associations and groups in corporate law and community development legal needs. The legal aid is designed to support grassroots organizations and promote community-based neighborhood transformations such as revitalization, economic development, and small business growth. FRLS attorneys participate in drafting corporate formation documents, assisting nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt applications and maintenance of tax-exempt status, drafting and negotiating contracts, and other transactions related to economic development and redevelopment contracts.
“We have the resources to help these communities, and we want them to know we are here to help them as well,” Pickett added. “Through our staff, volunteer attorneys and partner organizations we have the ability to provide free services in a wide variety of service areas.”
“FRLS was founded to provide services to farmworkers, so this is full circle for us to provide a resource to farmworkers especially at a time when they need us more than ever,” Pickett further stated.
FRLS began services in 1966 through Shriver Center funding under a project which was a success and quickly expanded. FRLS continues its services to migrant farmworkers statewide.
Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. is a non-profit law firm dedicated to providing quality civil legal advice, representation and education for low-income people and communities. FRLS provides advice, pro se assistance and legal representation in civil law matters through its seven offices throughout Central and South Florida and provides services to farmworkers statewide.