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Volunteer Lawyers Project provides free life planning documents for healthcare workers

June 8, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) announced this week that it has partnered with the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP to help frontline healthcare workers during their continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group is calling it the VLP COVID-19 Frontline Workers Initiative. The Initiative will provide free preparation for things like wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, and parental designation forms for all members of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union.

“We are honored to be of service at this time to the hard-working, essential, and often overlooked 1199SEIU members who are on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said Anne O’Grady, VLP pro bono director.

George Gresham, 1199SEIU president.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that New York City experienced its first day with no COVID-19 related deaths. However, Cuomo also announced that there were still approximately 2,700 hospitalizations and 42 deaths across the state on Thursday.

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Attorneys from VLP and Akin Gump will be able to provide the 1199SEIU workers with legal help by using video conferencing to meet with them remotely to assess their needs and will also provide interpretation services for people who don’t speak English.

“We are excited to partner with the VLP on this crucial project to help New York City’s frontline healthcare workers. We are happy to support a group that has been such a key part of the pandemic response and hope that our work will provide some measure of comfort and security in these uncertain times,” said Akin Gump pro bono counsel, Lauren Connell.

Lauren Connell, Akin Gump, pro bono counsel.

The Initiative will also provide for family members of the union workers, as the VLP and Akin Gump acknowledge that the health care workers are not only putting themselves at risk of contracting the coronavirus, as their families can be exposed to it secondhand.

Probate matters are also being offered in the event a 1199SEIU member dies with or without a will for people with estates smaller than $50,000 or less.

“1199ers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for months. They fought through the surge and are continuing to help lower the number of positive cases, while treating patients with the dedicated and compassionate care they need,” said George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU. “We thank the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project and Akin Gump for recognizing the sacrifices of 1199 members and offering to provide needed legal advice and representation during this extremely difficult time.”

Heidi Lee Henderson, VLP president and CEO.

The VLP will also offer many of the same services it offers for free to indigent New Yorkers to 1199SEIU workers too — these range from consumer debt assistance, to bankruptcy, foreclosure, custody, visitation, 17a guardianship and uncontested divorces.

“While it is heartbreaking to know the need for these services is so great, the VLP will proudly assist 1199SEIU members to provide immediate support for our frontline heroes and their families,” said Heidi Lee Henderson, VLP president and chief executive officer.

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