Bankruptcy Clinic Addresses Pandemic-Related Financial Needs

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Mitchell Weller & Franco Della Torre

Franco Della Torre & Mitchell Weller

The Eleanor R. Cristol and Judge A. Jay Cristol Bankruptcy Pro Bono Assistance Clinic partnered with the Dade Legal Aid/Put Something Back program to provide financial information to people impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Bankruptcy clinic students received training on some of the resources available to address the economic pressures created by the pandemic, and staff pro bono telephone hotlines to answer financial questions.

“Working with the Put Something Back hotline has been a great experience and has provided a valuable service to those in need by conducting intake and providing resources,” said 3L clinic student Mitchell Weller. “Many of the callers are particularly concerned about being evicted from their homes or having their homes foreclosed upon during the pandemic.”

Governor Ron DeSantis signed and extended an eviction moratorium, so those in danger of being evicted or foreclosed on who are also being told to stay home would have housing security.

The clinic offers pro bono legal services to low-income individuals who are dealing with bankruptcy. Established by the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida, the clinic pair students with experienced bankruptcy lawyers who supervise them in real cases. In light of UM’s move to remote teaching and Florida’s shelter-in-place order, the clinic shifted to offsite operations and reorganized its work to help address the dire economic consequences of the coronavirus spread.

Hotline callers also included 1099 employees, small business owners, and those in the gig economy unable to work caused by the essential businesses only and shelter-in-place orders. Students provide information about emergency federal protections such as the Payroll Protection Program and other provisions of the CARES Act.

“Hopefully federal aid will help those most at risk for bankruptcy,” said another clinic student Franco Della Torre. Weller and Della Torre, along with clinic student Nico Nessenoff, prepared a Frequently Asked Question page for the Put Something Back program.

Della Torre has applied for the now-postponed New York Bar exam, so he plans to continue working with the program beyond the end of the semester. “I am happy to help my community and continue to volunteer with the Put Something Back program as everyone including myself has been affected by this pandemic.”

Patricia Redmond who directs and teaches the Bankruptcy Clinic has decided to offer the clinic over the summer to provide legal training to law students who are facing a smaller legal job market while providing much-needed advice to the community on financial and bankruptcy-related issues.

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