"Helping Handbook" Available for Victims of California Wildfires

11/21/2003

Press Release

Helping Handbook Online Version

Los Angeles (November 24, 2003) -- A valuable new resource is being made available today for Southern Californians facing legal challenges caused by the wildfires which swept through the region this fall.

Lawyers at Morrison & Foerster LLP, in conjunction with seven bar associations, have produced the "Helping Handbook", a 72-page overview of issues faced by people recovering from the most damaging blazes in state history. The manual provides much-needed and helpful information to Californians who are trying to put their homes and lives back together.

For fire victims who may not be aware of all of the public and private resources available to them, this manual is an indispensable guide. In user-friendly Q&A format, it addresses everything from temporary housing to replacing a VCR or burnt computer. Going beyond disaster response, the handbook even covers ancillary issues that victims may face, such as how to file an unemployment claim, what to do if creditors keep calling you and how to shop around for home loans.

The handbook's sections include:

  • housing (relocation, replacement, repair or rebuilding and other related issues);
  • unemployment (including Disaster Unemployment Assistance);
  • insurance (filing claims, replacing destroyed insurance documents);
  • dealing with federal agencies (FEMA and the SBA), state programs and how to find local assistance and disaster recovery centers;
  • personal finance issues caused by the fires (tax relief, bankruptcy);
  • immigration issues (special issues for non-citizens);
  • document and record replacement (social security, Medicare cards, tax returns, etc.);
  • lawyer referral services and Legal Aid;
  • other related resources -- public and private;
  • consumer tips and fraud prevention; and
  • phone numbers of relevant state and federal agencies
"In the wake of the fires, our Pro Bono Committee met to discuss how we could help those affected, and we sent out an e-mail seeking volunteers to the firm's Southern California offices; the response was immediate and overwhelming," said Anthony Press, the managing partner of Morrison & Foerster's Century City office and chair of the firm's Pro Bono Committee. He added that the multi-office team of lawyers met a deadline of one week for completion of the handbook. The team was led by L.A.-office partners Jack Alden and Rena O'Malley, with Bob Cooper in Century City, Helen Irza in San Diego and Kathi Pugh in San Francisco playing key coordinating roles.

"We did similar helping handbooks after the 9/11 tragedy that were widely distributed and translated into several languages," said Mr. Press, referring to the handbooks the firm's New York office produced for small business owners and individuals in New York City after the terrorist attacks. "When we became aware of the magnitude of these fires, we realized that there would be a lot of people here facing a similar slew of property-related and financial issues. The handbook was a very natural way for us to help.

"We're very grateful for the assistance of the California State Bar Association and the bar associations of Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura County. We would also like to thank Bowne Financial Print and the Girvan Peck Memorial Fund which each provided funds for printing of the handbook. This was truly a collaborative effort."

Morrison & Foerster is distributing thousands of copies of the handbook to local assistance and disaster relief centers and other locations throughout Southern California, including the American Red Cross, state and local bar associations and other legal assistance centers, the Scripps Ranch Library and the San Bernardino Mayor's Office.

The Helping Handbook is also available online at:

//media2.mofo.com/documents/sdfirehandbook2003.pdf

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