Last updated: October 17, 2017 at 10:03am
CONTENTS: How to Sign up for FEMA Assistance or Apply to the Undocumented Fund, Emergency Resources, Post-Disaster Checklist (available only in the PDF), Returning Home, Safety Hazards, Legal Services, Unemployment Benefits, Replacing Lost Documents, Refilling Prescriptions, Health Care, Specialized Resources, Confronting Financial Challenges, Housing Resources, Additional Assistance, Taking Care of Yourself, Notice about Foreclosure Scams, Your Rights under FDCPA, Worksheets, Sample Letter to Creditors, and more!
NOTE: If there are resources missing that you’d like to add, please comment below or email [email protected]
Remember: Turn to your union for help! Your union can be a valuable tool when you need help. UNITE HERE Local 49 and 2850 have staff available who can assist you in learning about and accessing the resources and benefits that may be best suited to your needs.
If your home was lost or damaged in the fires, you can apply for assistance here: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or by calling 800-621-3362.
Si su hogar fue perdido o dañado por los incendios, puede aplicar por asistencia federal aquí https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ o llamando a 800-621-3362.
FEMA, Sonoma County, and the City of Santa Rosa have opened a one-stop Local Assistance Center at 427 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa. See this link for information: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Public-Safety/Press-Releases/Local-Assistance-Center-Opening-for-Sonoma-County-Residents-Impacted-by-Fires/ Or call 707-565-3782.
FEMA, el Condado de Sonoma, y la Ciudad de Santa Rosa han establecido un Centro de Ayuda en 427 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa. Busque información aquí http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Public-Safety/Press-Releases/Local-Assistance-Center-Opening-for-Sonoma-County-Residents-Impacted-by-Fires-Spanish/ o llame a 707-565-3782.
Not eligible for FEMA? Apply to Undocufund.org
INFORMACIÓN SOBRE UNDOCUFUND
EL FONDO UNDOCUFUND DE AYUDA A LAS COMUNIDADES INDOCUMENTADAS AFECTADAS POR LOS INCENDIOS FORESTALES EN EL CONDADO DE SONOMA
Fundado por una coalición de organizaciones sin fines de lucro que sirven, protegen o defienden a la comunidad de inmigrantes indocumentados, el UndocuFund para la ayuda a las comunidades indocumentadas afectadas por los incendios en el norte de California, proverá asistencia directa a las víctimas indocumentadas. El cien por ciento de todas las donaciones se destinarán al apoyo a las víctimas.
Con la misión proporcionar apoyo directo a los niños, las familias y las comunidades indocumentadas afectadas por los incendios en el condado de Sonoma, el UndocuFund será supervisado por un comité comunitario local, incluyendo inmigrantes indocumentados, que revisarán las solicitudes de asistencia y tomarán decisiones sobre la distribución de los fondos. El UndocuFund proverá asistencia para pagar gastos básicos como alquiler y comida, entre otras necesidades.
THE UNDOCUFUND WILL ENSURE THAT UNDOCUMENTED FAMILIES DISPLACED BY THE FIRES WILL HAVE THE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES THEY NEED TO RECOVER AND REBUILD
“With a mission to provide direct support to undocumented children, families, and communities affected by the fires in Sonoma County, the UndocuFund will be overseen by a local community advisory committee, including impacted undocumented immigrants, who will review assistance requests and make funding decisions. The UndocuFund will provide assistance to pay for such basics as rent and groceries, among other needs.
An estimated 28,000 undocumented children and adults live and work in Sonoma County. Many lost their homes and belongings in the Northern California fires, and others have lost jobs or businesses. Unlike other victims, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Their lack of immigration status, limited English proficiency, and fear of immigration enforcement also impede their access to disaster-relief services, even when they are eligible. Lack of familiarity or comfort with law enforcement, countydepartments, and financial institutions are additional barriers.”
Go to Nixle.com or text 888777 with your zip code to get updates on evacuations and new shelters opening.
KSRO radio: http://www.ksro.com/
Road and Traffic Info Updated at: http://roadconditions.sonoma-county.org/
Sonoma County Evacuation Centers: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Public-Safety/News/Evacuation-Centers-Available-from-Sonoma-County-Fires-October-9-2017
Santa Rosa Fire Department Emergency Information:
Sonoma County Animal Services: Anyone encountering animal-related issues can call 707-565-4406. This number will be available 24 hours a day 7 days a week until further notice. Please be prepared to share information about the number of animals, type of animals, numerical address and location for the animals, and any information about the families associated with the animals, if known.
Napa County Emergency Shelters: http://www.countyofnapa.org/Pages/Content.aspx?id=4294989366
The Napa County Animal Shelter at 942 Hartle Court is taking in cats, dogs, and other animals. The shelter is seeking volunteers (those interested should call 707-253-4382), but is asking the public to only bring in animals who need emergency help.
Real time updates of the incident will continue to be made on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff/) and Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/mendosheriff).
Mendocino County Animal Shelter: There are many Found Pets at the Mendocino County Animal Shelter in Ukiah (298 Plant Road, Ukiah, California. You can call 707-463-4427, however VISUAL IDENTIFICATION is a MUST. The shelter is open 10-4:30 Tuesday-Saturday, and 6:30 on Wednesdays.
Real time updates can be found at: https://m.facebook.com/LakeCountyOES/posts/456237867889353
Lake County Animal Care & Control: Evacuated residents that need assistance with pets can call Lake County Animal Care and Control (707) 263-0278. An animal evacuation location has been set-up at the Lake County Animal Care and Control at 4949 Helbush Drive, in Lakeport.
Yuba County evacuation information: http://www.bepreparedyuba.org/pages/during/evacuationinfo.aspx
Butte County Fire Emergency Information: http://www.buttecounty.net/
Butte County -North Valley Animal Disaster Group: (530) 895-0000
Nevada County Evacuation Information: https://www.mynevadacounty.com/AlertCenter.aspx?AID=Local-Fires-Alert-McCourtney-Rd-Fire-Lon-4
An emergency animal shelter is located at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
POST DISASTER CHECK LIST
To get up-to-date information on evacuations, shelters and road closures, text your zip code to 888777.
Santa Rosa Public Information Line is open for those with questions: 707-543-4511.
You can request a list of open shelters by calling the American Red Cross:
Connections to local food banks provided by phone or online.
Redwood Empire Food Bank
Connecting with Loved Ones
A Santa Rosa Public Information Line is open for those with questions: 707-543-4511.
Prescriptions & Medical Advice
The National Council of Prescription Drug Programs offers an online map of pharmacies that are open in your area at heathcareready.org/rxopen
Free Medical Advice
If you have health coverage through Kaiser Permanente, call the nurse advice line at:
800-464-4000 or TTY 711
800-757-7585 (Chinese dialects)
If you have health coverage through Anthem Blue Cross, call the nurse advice line at:
Disaster Distress line: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
Access to Insulin
Eli Lilly: 1-800-Lilly-RX
Coming back to a home that’s gone through a fire can be heartbreaking and overwhelming. It can also be hazardous to your health. Here’s some advice from other wildfire survivors:
- If you’ve been away from your home for an extended period of time, do not enter without sturdy shoes (work boots or rubber boots if you have them), gloves and a face mask that’s rated at least an “N95” (it will say this on the package).
- If you haven’t recently had a tetanus shot, get one as soon as possible, especially if you plan to do any cleaning or construction yourself.
- There’s a good chance you won’t have access to clean running water. Bring lots of bottled water with you. You’ll need it.
- Check your insurance guidelines very carefully before doing anything. If you have no choice to wait, then the next step goes DOUBLE.
- Take a LOT of picture of EVERYTHING. Before you remove anything or start cleaning or making repairs, take pictures of the damage. Take pictures of everything you take out of the house- furniture, appliances, carpets, sheetrock, anything. Be sure to take pictures of the water mark. Use a tape measure to show how high it was. Do this INSIDE & OUTSIDE.
- If your outlets were under water do not turn on your breakers if you have power.
- Keep receipts of anything you use for cleaning, repair, or removal.
- If your home lost power, don’t bother opening fridges or deep freezers. Duct tape the doors closed and as carefully as possible, get them to the curb.
- If you are doing major repairs and are taking out walls, leave at least one wall per room. You must also leave at least one section of carpet or flooring in place. Some insurers will require seeing it and taking their own pictures.
Cleaning Your Home
- Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator (dust mask) and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
- Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- Do NOT use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, or to make ice or baby formula.
- Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.
- Remember to take LOTS of pictures!
- If your car’s been towed you can search for it online using your license plate or VIN number at: com
More Health & Safety Info
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has resources available online for people dealing with mold, contaminated water, and other wildfire-related hazards. They can be downloaded at: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/index.html
Many hazards follow in the wake of a disaster like this one. Here are some you can take steps to avoid:
- Use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns instead of candles.
- For several hours after the fire, maintain a “fire watch.” Check and re-check for smoke, sparks or hidden embers throughout the house, including the roof and the attic.
- Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning. Evacuate immediately if you smell smoke.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Use portable generators, charcoal grills and camp stove outside the house and garage and at least 20 feet from windows, doors and vents.
- Stay away from ALL downed wires and whatever they are touching.
- Avoid standing water that covers electrical outlets or is in contact with electrical equipment
- Use only undamaged, OUTDOOR electrical cables with portable generators
- Don’t operate electrical appliances and equipment that are in water or have been under water. Have a qualified technician clear them for use first.
- If you smell or hear gas leaking, don’t turn lights on or off, or use electrical equipment, including a phone. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, then call 911!
- Before you use a gas appliance or gas cylinder, have a professional check for damage or leaks.
- Leave your home or another building right away if you hear shifting or unusual noises. Strange noises could mean it’s about to fall.
There are a number of ways to reach qualified lawyers who will provide free legal advice on how to manage your insurance claim, landlord/tenant issues, immigration-related concerns, and a range of other disaster-related legal questions you might have.
Volunteer lawyers are also visiting shelters to offer free assistance to people affected by the fires. It may be worth checking with shelters in your area to find help.
Legal Aid of Sonoma County
provides free legal assistance to low-income people. They can be reached at (707) 843-4432 or at legalaidsc.org.
Legal Services of Northern California
LSNC provides free legal assistance to low-income people. Their Chico office serves Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Plumas and Tehama counties, and can be reached at:
Voice: (530) 345-9491
Toll Free: (800) 345-9491
The Vallejo office serves Solano county and can be reached at:
Voice: (707) 643-0054
Fax: (707) 643-0144
The Sacramento office serves Sacramento county and can be reached at: (916) 551-2150
If you missed days of work without pay, lost your job or if your hours have been reduced because of the disaster, you may apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits.
Even if you’ve already exhausted your state unemployment benefits or if you don’t have the past earnings or length of employment to qualify for regular benefits, you may be eligible for special Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
You can apply for benefits or re-open your existing claim by contacting:
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program pays benefits to workers who have lost their job and meet the program’s eligibility requirements. If you have become unemployed, you may file a UI claim. You may be eligible for UI benefits if you meet all eligibility requirements. After you have filed a claim, you must continue to certify for benefits and meet eligibility requirements in order for the EDD to pay you benefits. Use the information below to access unemployment related services and information.
Information on the process can be found in multiple languages via this website: http://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Starting_Your_UI_Claim.htm
The amount that you receive varies according to your previous earnings and/or the number of hours you work.
Whether you choose to file your claim by telephone or on the web you must be ready to present the following information:
- Your name (including all names you used while working)
- Social Security number.
- Your mailing and residence address (including ZIP code) and phone number (including area code).
- Your state issued driver’s license or ID card number, if you have either.
- The last date you worked for any employer. If you are working part-time be sure to tell us you are still working, give us the number of hours you are working each week, and tell us the last day you worked prior to filing a UI claim.
- Last employer information, including: name, address (mailing and physical location) and phone number. We will also need the ZIP code for both addresses (mailing and physical location) and the area code for your last employer’s phone number. Be specific about the spelling of the employer’s name and make sure the address is correct because we are required to mail a notice to that employer. An incorrect address will delay benefit payments.
- Information on all employers you worked for during the 18 months prior to filing your claim, including: name, period of employment, wages earned and how you were paid.
- The name of the employer you worked for the longest within the last year and a half; and the number of years you worked for that employer. This may or may not be the same as your last employer.
- The reason you are no longer working for your last employer. You may have quit, been laid off, fired, or left work because of a trade dispute. Be specific about the reason you are not working because the information you give to us must be sent to your last employer. If you quit, were fired, or left work because of a trade dispute, you will be scheduled to a future telephone interview. The information we obtain during the interview will help us decide if you are eligible to receive benefits.
- Whether you are receiving, or expect to receive any payments from a former employer. We ask about this because some types of payments may be deducted from your benefits. A few examples of payments that may be deducted include wages, pension payments, holiday pay, and vacation or sick pay. Severance pay is not deducted from unemployment insurance benefits and does not affect your eligibility to receive benefits. However, you must report severance pay at the time you file your unemployment insurance claim.
- Whether you are able to work and available to accept work.
- Whether you have a legal right to work in the United States. If applicable, individuals will be asked for their alien registration number. A comprehensive list of acceptable identity and authorization to work documents is available through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
If you’ve lost any of your important documents, the process of replacing them can be slow and frustrating. You’ll need some of these documents just to get some of the other ones. Make a list of what you have and what you need, what the requirements are to get each one and what order you’ll need to get them in.
California Driver License:
Social Security Card:
You will need a government-issued photo ID
Birth and death certificates:
Visit the California Department of Public Health (CDHP) website.
In order to obtain a copy of your birth certificate you need to apply through the CDHP. Start by going to the website and click on the “Birth, Death, & Marriage Certificates” link on the upper left of the CDHP home page, under Most Popular Links.
- Alternatively you can go straight to the relevant page by following this link: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Pages/CertifiedCopiesofBirthDeathRecords.aspx.
- Here you will see all the steps you need to follow. You can download all the necessary forms directly from this website.
Phone: 888-368-4689 https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/vr
Phone: Check with your own insurance agent
Real Estate and Property Records (Mortgage Documents, Deeds, etc.):
Phone: Contact your own agent
Work IDs, paystubs, proof of employment & other work-related documents
Speak to your employer about reissuing or providing copies of these documents. If you have any problems or concerns, your union is here to help!
You must re-register to vote (by filling out new registration form) if:
- You change your address within the county or move to another county in California.
- You change your name.
- You wish to affiliate (join) a political party or change your political party affiliation.
- You want to change where your ballot is being mailed.
Voter Registration: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/
Sonoma County Registry of Voters
Phone: (707) 565-6800
Refilling Lost Prescriptions
If you have lost or run out of your medication and you can’t reach your doctor or get to your usual pharmacy, try to find as many of the following things as you can:
- Your empty pill bottle(s) with labels
- Your prescription card
- A phone number for your regular pharmacy
- A phone number for your insurance company’s pharmacy help desk
What to expect you get to the pharmacy:
- Don’t worry if your next scheduled refill isn’t for a while. The pharmacy & your insurance company should be prepared to override the normal refill schedule.
- You can get an emergency supply even if you don’t have a refill and the pharmacy can’t reach the person who prescribed your medication. If missing your medication would have a serious impact on your health, the pharmacy is allowed to give you a 72 hour emergency supply. In a disaster, they can give you as much as 30-days’ worth.
- If your prescription is for a controlled substance, you will need your doctor to fax or e-fax a new prescription for you. If you can’t reach your doctor, you will have to consult another prescriber, who may give you a temporary prescription for alternative medication that isn’t a controlled substance.
If possible, go to a branch of your usual pharmacy chain. Sometimes, prescriptions may not be electronically transferred between pharmacies that aren’t part of the same chain. If your original pharmacy is closed, a pharmacy from a different chain may have a harder time getting your prescription transferred over.
Help Paying for Prescriptions
Working with your doctor
Explain your situation to the doctor and ask for his or her help finding the most affordable and accessible alternatives to meet your prescription needs, including access to samples, different generics, mail-order options or longer prescriptions (90 day supplies instead of 30). You can also ask at your pharmacy about ways to reduce costs.
The following programs may be able to assist you in obtaining low cost or discounted medications:
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Helps qualifying patients without prescription
drug coverage get the medicines they need through the program that is right for them. Many will get their medications free or nearly free.
Website also has a list of free or low-cost clinics in your area.
A community partner of United Way, Familywize offers discounts on many common prescription drugs. Website allows you to look up drug prices and request more information on the program:
Online database of prescription discount programs and other patient resources.
In most cases, members will continue their health coverage without interruption. If you do not meet the minimum number of hours, you may eventually lose coverage. Even so, you will still have options.
Affordable Care Act
People who lose their employer-based health insurance are eligible to apply for free care through Medi-Cal and reduced-cost health insurance plans offered through Covered California. You can apply online for both at coveredca.com as soon as you lose coverage.
The Federal COBRA law requires that most employers offer you and your family a temporary extension of health coverage at group rates, called “continuation coverage”. Depending on the circumstances of your job departure, you, your spouse and dependent children may be eligible for coverage for a minimum of 18 months with a possible extension to 36 months in certain circumstances. You may be required to pay the full premium, including your employer’s contribution. Speak to UNITE HERE Health about this option: 609-345-8212
Medicare is a federally funded medical insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration. You are eligible for Medicare hospital insurance if you:
- Are 65 and receive Social Security or railroad retirement benefits
- Have received Social security disability benefits for 24 months
For more information about these requirements and other features of the Medicare program, call: 800-633-4227 (TTY 877-486-2048) or visit www.medicare.gov.
Remember: Your family doctor or local hospital does not want to see you ignore health problems. If you have lost your health coverage, speak to your doctor about the possibility of negotiating reduced fees and payment schedules.
CHILDREN & FAMILIES
KRON 4 is maintaining a list of area school closings on its website
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) – Disaster Response
This program will make free and reduced-price school meal programs available to children even if school hasn’t started yet.
Free School Lunch for K-12 Students
CalWORKS also known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
This program provides financial assistance to very poor families with children under 19. Texans can apply at: https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/1229
California Children’s Health Plan
Provides low-cost health insurance for children up to age 21 and pregnant women. Includes Medicaid services and programs for low-income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
Women Infants & Children (WIC)
Mobile website: https://m.wic.ca.gov/
Offers supplemental foods and health care referrals for low-income pregnant women and new, as well as to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. Evacuees will be given special priority for the program and normal documentation requirements will be waived. Clinics are also available.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Disaster Survivors with Disabilities Hotline
Refers people with disabilities to services and resources they may need, including helping to meet immediate needs for durable medical equipment and supplies.
Disability Services & Legal Clinic
Online Intake: http://mydslc.org/
Emergency information and resources related to the fires and their aftermath.
Santa Rosa Main Office: 707-528-2745
Address: 521 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Ukiah Branch Office: 707-463-8875
Address: 415 B Talmage Rd. Ukiah, CA 95482
Napa Branch Office: 707-258-0270
Address: 1040 Main St. Suite 205 Napa, CA 94559
Mental Health Community Resources
For people with mental health related disabilities there are Self-help centers which offer help, classes, activities and employment. The following is a list of some of the resources in our community.
707-571-5581, 144 South E Street, Ste 200, Santa Rosa
707-546-4481, 1033 4th St. Santa Rosa (Self-help center)
707-463-0400, 270 North Pine St. Ukiah (Self-help center)
NAMI Sonoma County (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill)
707-527-6655, 1300 N Dutton Ave., Ste A, Santa Rosa.
NAMI gives support, as well as classes and other information for both people with mental disabilities and their family members.
People Empowering People
707-259-8692, 2261 Elm St. Trailer N, Napa (Self-help center)
769-5299, 1360 N McDowell Ave Petaluma 94952.
Russian River Empowerment Center
707-604-7264, 16229 3rd St. Guerneville (Self-help center)
Wellness & Advocacy Center
707-565-7800, 3400 Chanate Rd. Santa Rosa (Self-help center)
Even in the best of times, living on a temporarily reduced income would require your utmost caution and skill in managing your money. Doing it in the aftermath of a natural disaster is almost unimaginable. There are many resources to help you, but first you must plan ahead. Here are some steps to get you started:
- Stop unnecessary expenses.
For example, if your home is temporarily uninhabitable or totally destroyed, notify the utility company and other service companies, such as the phone company, so they can stop billing immediately.
- Count up your resources.
Estimate the amount of income and emergency savings you have to pay bills while you recover from the disaster.
- Set up a realistic budget plan
Allow for basic needs such as: food, shelter, utilities and medical care, as well as special expenses like replacing lost items, cleaning, moving, etc.
- Prioritize your bills. When you do not have enough money to pay all the bills, pay these first: rent or mortgage, utilities, food and transportation.
- Call creditors and ask for more time to pay. Before your bills become due, notify your creditors, lenders and/or landlord that you have been affected by the storm and can’t meet your payments. Most creditors will be willing to work with you, especially if you notify them before a payment is due. Explain your situation truthfully and ask for a written payment plan or discuss other ways to pay off your obligations. Use the document entitled “Sample Letter to Creditors” at the end of this booklet as a guide to communicate with your creditors.
- Maintain accurate files. Before mailing your letters, make copies to keep for your files. If you must negotiate over the phone, keep detailed notes including the representative’s name, title, and phone number. Follow up any phone conversations in writing.
- Stay organized. Keep everything in one place. Write a summary list of your financial plan for quick reference.
- Keep your end of the bargain. If you are unable to make agreed upon payments, contact your creditors immediately to renegotiate.
- Avoid making unnecessary purchases on credit.
- Get budget counseling if you are having difficulty. For financial counseling, debt management and consumer education, call:
California Credit Counseling
Consumer Credit Counseling Services
- To report price-gouging or another consumer problem, contact
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline
Email: [email protected]
- If you need mediation services to provide conflict resolution with a landlord, merchant, neighbor or family member, call:
Alternate Dispute Resolution Center of Marin County Superior Court
Phone: (415) 444-7040
If you rent, discuss your circumstances with your landlord as soon as possible. If your home in uninhabitable, the landlord is legally allowed to terminate your lease. This means you do not owe any further rent, are entitled to have your security deposit returned, and may request a refund of any rent you pre-paid for months or parts of months that you were not able to use.
If you are forced out of your apartment, some insurers may cover the cost of the first 2 months of your temporary replacement rental. Depending on your circumstances, these payments may be extended in 3 month intervals up to 18 months.
If you are able to remain in your home but are unable to continue to pay your full rent, contact your landlord immediately to negotiate a mutually acceptable written payment plan or discuss other ways to pay off your obligation.
If you have any doubts about your rights, see the “Legal Resources” section for ways to contact lawyers who can advise you on how to proceed.
There are also resources for renters available from the Sonoma County Housing Authority.
Sonoma County Housing Authority
The purpose of the program is to provide rental assistance to very low-income families and individuals to enable them to rent decent, safe and affordable housing.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
Phone: (415) 457-5025, extension 101
Provides free comprehensive fair housing counseling, complaint investigation, and assistance in filing housing discrimination complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Planning ahead can prevent the loss of your home. If you are concerned about your ability to keep current with your mortgage payments, contact your mortgage lender or servicer immediately and let them know you are in an affected area and need assistance.
If you have government-insured mortgage (backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), all foreclosure and evictions in areas affected by the wildfire are suspended for 90 days. Government guidelines allow for 6 months, or possibly more, of suspended payment forbearance plan, including suspended credit reporting and late fee waivers. At the end of the forbearance, the loan will be modified to help get back to an affordable payment schedule.
If you are not satisfied after discussing possible relief actions with your lender, you and call a US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved counseling agency at: 1-800-569-4287
For private mortgages, it will be up to the individual credit unions how it will be handled. You should contact your mortgage company as soon as you know you will have difficulty paying your mortgage payments. The sooner you call, the more options will be available to you.
For additional assistance in avoiding foreclosure, contact the federal government’s 24-hr Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline: 888-995-HOPE (4673)
Provides services in over 160 languages
Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)
Food-specific financial aid for people whose income has been significantly impacted by disaster-related loss of work and/or increased expenses (clean-up, repairs, etc.). Apply through http://www.benefitscal.org/ or call California’s hotline at 1-877-847-3663 (FOOD)
Utiltiies / Energy Assistance Program
Provides relief to low income households by providing financial assistance, paying up to four of the highest bills during the year.
Lifeline Telephone Assistance
Helps qualified low-income individuals pay the monthly cost of basic telephone service.
Student Loan Management
The above website has information on deferment or forbearance. A deferment or forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments or to temporarily reduce the amount you pay.
On the web: www.ssa.gov
If you are 62 or older you may be eligible for Social Security benefits. If you begin collecting before age 65, your benefits will be reduced. The amount of benefits that you receive is based on your lifetime earnings.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a federal program that pays monthly benefits to people who are 65 or older, or blind, or have a disability and who don’t own much or have a lot of income. SSI isn’t just for adults. Monthly benefits can go to disabled and blind children, too. For information, call Social Security at the number listed above.
Catholic Charities Homeless Services Center
Drop-in and initial review center supporting the largest combination of family and adult shelters in Northern California
Mary Isaac Center
Men’s and Women’s shelter. Varied Stays.
SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Phone: (707) 463-4357
Provides a safe place to stay, counseling and advocacy to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Lake Family Resource Center
Phone: (888) 485-7733
Family crisis center and shelter serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Report a lost or found pet, get information about pet-friendly shelters.
North Bay Lost & Found Pets
Facebook page for those seeking lost pets. If you’ve lost a pet, contact shelters and check out online resources such as lost and found pet groups: www.facebook.com/groups/1632245713675169/
Phone: (707) 762-3131 (located at most Staples stores)
May be on site at some shelters.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
A disaster like this affects us in lots of ways. Some are obvious, but some can be hard to recognize at first. Here’s some advice to protect yourself as you move through the next few months:
- Don’t spend too much time watching and reading news about the storm. Let yourself engage in relaxing activities that will help you heal and move on.
- Take your sleep seriously. Only go to bed when you are ready to sleep and avoid using your phone in bed. If you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, try writing what’s on your mind in a journal or on a piece of paper.
- Take your support system seriously- keep in touch with friends and family and reach out to others who are sharing this experience with you.
- Make and keep a routine. Eat meals at regular times and set a sleep schedule that ensures you enough rest.
- Include a positive or fun activity in your schedule that you can look forward to each day or week. Schedule exercise into your daily routine as well, if possible.
- Avoid making major life decisions that you don’t have to make. There’s plenty of change going on around you. Give yourself time to adjust.
- Recognize the effects of stress, and seek help if needed.
- Catch problems while they are small – and remember that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
When you’re ready, give yourself a chance to give back. Volunteering can be a good way to feel productive and purposeful at a time when everything around you is uncertain.
You may not need to look any further than your community, faith, school, union or other networks to find opportunities to volunteer. If you want to explore other options, you could try:
Lists volunteering and donation opportunities. Updated frequently.
Connects you with a wide variety of volunteer opportunities with specific groups like immigrants, the elderly, kids, etc.
The huge relief agencies also have lots of volunteer opportunities:
The American Red Cross
￼The Salvation Army
- list of GoFundMe pages dedicated to California fire relief: gofundme.com/raise-funds/CAfirerelief
- The Red Cross is seeking volunteers to assist fire evacuees. Log in here to get connected and see where help is needed: http://sacb.ee/bdDE. They can also use donations; you can give online, redcross.org/donate/donation, call 800-RED-CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
- Give to a California food Bank that’s helping victims. Here’s a list: cafoodbanks.org/find-food-bank
- Visit http://volunteer.cvnl.org to register as a disaster service worker.
- Airbnb hosts are opening their homes for free to evacuees through Oct. 30.
- Stay clear of evacuation routes as much as possible if you are not under evacuation orders.
- Do not call 911 for general information. Call only for an emergency including unattended, active flames and life-threatening emergencies. Please keep these lines open for emergency responders.
- Visit the Tubbs Fire (Lake/Sonoma/Mendo) Facebook group to get involved in community discussion and offer services, along with the Tubbs Fire Safety Check-in Facebook page, which has a support link. You can post services you have to offer. Search for other community groups on Facebook to open the conversation and get up-to-date needs.
- Many shelters are in need of bedding. See a list of shelters here.
- SHARE Sonoma County has created temporary home sharing for those who have lost their housing due to the recent fires. They currently have over 40 home providers offering housing. Anyone needing housing due to the fire or offering housing should contact [email protected] or 707-765-8488, ext. 126.
- We have an application process which will be done over the phone. Many of these housing opportunities include accepting families and pets. Some are only for a few days, but some are a month or longer.
- Volunteers are needed to serve food and set up, along with helping with evacuated animals. The city of Sonoma says to go to the Sonoma Community Center to register, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma.
- Drop off blankets and pillows at Sonoma Valley High School, 20000 Broadway, Sonoma.
- Drop off adult diapers and wipes at Adele Harrison Middle School, 1150 Broadway in Sonoma, which is an evacuation center for residents of the Developmental Center.
- The Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds Evacuation Center, 442 Franklin Ave., Yuba City, needs items, which can be taken to the main gate. For people: Toiletries, new undergarments, diapers (kids and adults), and cases of water. For animals: Bedding, disposable baking pans for litter, small dishes, sheets to cover cages, folding cages.
- Animal shelters and rescues need help with fostering animals displaced by the fires and are seeking donations. They are also offering resources to pet owners:
- – The Milo Foundation shelter, 220 S. Garrard Blvd., Point Richmond, has taken in pets. If you can foster, visit the shelter, call 510-900-2275 or visit the website. Humane Society of Silicon Valley also took in animals in need from Petaluma.
- – The SPCA of Solano County, 2200 Peabody Road, Vacaville, is offering assistance to pet owners. It is seeking drop-off donations of crates, blankets, towels, food, bowls, etc. for fire victims. It is open until 7 p.m. Monday and will be accepting donations Tuesday as well. It also says if you need a place for your animals, call 707-448-7722.
- – Wine Country Animal Lovers is offering updates, help and supplies to animals in need. You can donate here.
- – Sonoma Humane Society is unable to board animals at this point due to displaced ones, but it has some resources available for pet owners who have been displaced by the fires at its Santa Rosa and Healdsburg shelters.
- – Jameson Rescue Ranch is out in the community to assess needs. It is seeking donations.
- – Check fire-area shelters and rescues to see if they are in need of resources and fostering.
ALERT FOR HOMEOWNERS!!!
Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams – Help Is FREE
Foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams are a growing problem. Homeowners must protect themselves so they do not lose money—or their home.
Unscrupulous lawyers and scammers make promises that they cannot keep, such as guarantees to “save” your home or lower your mortgage, often times for a fee. Scammers may pretend that they have direct contact with your mortgage servicer when they do not.
In this booklet Locals keep you within the safe bounds of government sponsored and/or regulated agencies. Locals, Federal, County, and State governments provide many free resources to get you the help you need. For example, homeowners can call the Homeowner’s HARP™ Hotline at 1-888-666-5019 for information about the Making Home Affordable Program and to speak with a HUD-approved housing counselor. All government agencies provide assistance in English and Spanish, and other languages by appointment.
Remember, there is no need to spend any money to receive help
Tips to Avoid Scams:
If You Suspect a Scam Call 888-995-HOPE (4673)
What to Do if You Have Been the Victim of a Scam:
If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) for assistance in English or Spanish.
Your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
While debt collectors do have the right to demand payment, and eventually take legal action if necessary, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits any kind of harassment.
The FDCPA applies to any personal, family, or household debt and covers debt collectors who regularly collect debt for others, but not the creditors themselves or their lawyers.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a collection call, you might wish to know:
- When can a collector contact me? Unless you give them permission to do otherwise, debt collectors can only contact you between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. They may not communicate with you by postcard.
- Can collectors contact me at work? A collector may not contact you at work if they know your employer disapproves.
- What constitutes harassment under the FDCPA? Collectors may not use profane language or threaten you with violence. In many instances, it prohibits the publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts. Collectors may not threaten to take your property unless they are actually able to do it.
- Can collectors contact my family or friends? Debt collectors can contact other people but only to ask for information on how to locate you. In most cases, the collector may not divulge the reason for the call to anyone other than you or your attorney.
- Can I get a collector to stop contacting me? Debt collection agencies are required to honor written requests to stop contacting consumers. Please be aware that sending a “cease and desist” letter does not relieve you of your responsibility. You will still owe the money, and the company may pursue collection efforts.
To obtain a copy of the FDCPA, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or online at www.FTC.gov
TRACKING DISASTER-RELATED EXPENSES
Remember to keep ALL receipts and photograph ALL damages!!
You’ll have to pay some costs up-front and request reimbursement from insurance, but you may also begin to receive insurance grant money in time to use it to pay for some things directly. Some agencies recommend keeping receipts for 3 years. Be careful to use insurance/given funds only for approved purposes.
|PAID OUT OF POCKET||PAID OUT OF GRANTS|
|PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS||PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS|
|Rent in Temporary Housing|
REPAIR AND CLEANING COSTS
Be sure to include what you spend on materials and supplies you use yourself, as well as payments you make to contractors and other workers.
|HOME REPAIR||PAID OUT OF POCKET||PAID OUT OF GRANTS|
|PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS||PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS|
|OTHER COSTS||PAID OUT OF POCKET||PAID OUT OF GRANTS|
|PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS||PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS|
|OTHER COSTS||PAID OUT OF POCKET||PAID OUT OF GRANTS|
|PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS||PAID TO||DATES||AMOUNTS|
|Other Essential Items|
|Disaster-Related Medical expenses|
DON”T FORGET YOUR USUSAL BILLS!
Don’t assume that your bills have stopped automatically because of the disaster. Use the checklist below to track which bills are paid, which are coming due, and which ones you’ve arranged to reduce or put on hold until after you’ve recovered from the disaster. (See the attached sample “Letter to Creditors” if you need to request special terms.)
SAMPLE LETTER TO CREDITORS
First & Last Name
Dear _________________ (name of person or department)
I am temporarily out of work due to the unexpected closure of my employer, __________________________. My income has been greatly reduced and I am asking your cooperation during this difficult period.
Until I am able to return to my usual employment, I need to cut back on all my regular payments. I would like to be able to work with you to establish a reduced payment. This is the fairest thing I can do under the circumstances. When I return to work, I will again work with you to establish a plan to catch up on my payments.
Thank you for your understanding.