Event seeks to help Spokane BIPOC community be more aware of legal aid

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Unemployment Law Project (ULP) will be holding an event bringing awareness to legal services available to local people of color.

Several legal aid organizations and other non-profits will be presenting on Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Center to inform Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities of services that are available to them.

ULP is a non-profit legal aid law firm in Spokane that represents people in hearings before the Washington Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to help secure unemployment benefits from the Employment Security Department.

During the pandemic, Juliana Repp, Spokane managing attorney at ULP and member of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) Tribe, said the ULP offices in Spokane received an unprecedented number of calls and requests for legal aid with unemployment benefits issues.

Repp described how BIPOC communities historically have lower income communities. They also have faced issues with access to healthcare, food insecurity and other problems.

These community members have faced scenarios where they have to either quit their jobs or continue working working at a job that puts their health and finances at risk, she said, especially for those who could not work remotely during the pandemic.

“Either way, they may be unaware of their rights to challenge denial of unemployment benefits and that ULP may represent them at their hearings,” Repp said. “They may be unaware of other legal aid services available to them.”

It is unclear how many people who need help are unaware of the non-profit law firm, she said. She added there are other civil legal aid organizations in this area that help those with unique legal needs such as Native Americans, those who need help with eviction defense or other basic human rights issues.

Through the event, Repp said they plan to meet with BIPOC-focused organizations and other legal aid entities that provide services in the Spokane area to network, collaborate and work on joint problem solving to, hopefully, narrow the gap in civil justice inequities.

BIPOC community event flyer

Courtesy of Julianna Repp

Event flyer

The presentations will focus on programs that provide services such as victim assistance, unemployment representation, legal assistance, benefits assistance, discrimination report resources, and clinic resources, said ULP intern Sarah Bodisco, adding many are available at little or no cost.

Organizations who will present at the event include the Unemployment Law Project; Northwest Justice Project, Native American Unit; The Way to Justice; and Gonzaga University School of Law – Clinical Law Program (Office of Civil and Human Rights, Indian Law Program, LGBTQ Clinic and Transgender Name Change Clinic).

There will also be BIPOC membership focused organizations including the Martin Luther King Jr., Family Outreach Center; Washington State Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (Spokane Representative); the NATIVE Project; the Carl Maxey Center; and the Kalispel Tribe Victim Services Program.

People can attend the event either in-person or through Zoom. All participants are asked to register for the event. If they go in-person, they are asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

“We’re hopeful that this is a first of many similar events since we know not all organizations or legal aid firms were able to present on their services at this event,” Repp said.

The event will go from 5-7 p.m.