Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences go out to all those impacted by the North Bay fires. In an effort to support those in need, we are currently working with legal aid programs in affected regions.
A must-read free resource: 2017 Northern California Wildfires “Helping Handbook: A Resources for Individuals, Families, and Small Businesses”
If you’d like to volunteer as a pro bono attorney, please click here.
If you are looking for attorney trainings, click here.
Where to donate to support legal aid efforts:
EDD just issued the public notice announcing the availability of DUA benefits, which triggers the 30-day filing deadline. The last day to file for DUA (unless the deadline is extended by U.S. DOL at CA’s request) is November 16th. DUA benefits are available for workers who lost their jobs as direct result of the fires in Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma, and Yuba counties (see the FEMA notice).
Food Assistance for Those Affected by the Northern California Fires
Disaster CalFresh (D-CalFresh), federally known as the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), was made available, but the window to apply has closed. Applications must have been submitted between October 25th and November 7th.
For those that did apply prior to the deadline and who are eligible, the program, designed to meet the temporary nutritional needs of disaster victims, provides 30 days worth of benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer card which can be used to purchase food at authorized retailers.
- FNS Disaster Assistance
- California 211
- California EBT Card
- California Association of Food Banks
- Disaster CalFresh Regulations
- D-SNAP State Training Webinar PowerPoint
- Cal OES – The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
Resources for Advocates from Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Disaster Aid for Undocumented Immigrants
Hearing about the catastrophic fires and unhealthy air quality have been difficult for everyone in the Bay Area. Among those directly and hardest hit are undocumented families and workers. We have compiled a list of information and resources that may be available to help. Thank you especially to our friends at National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the Governor’s Office for sharing resources.
Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)
- Gives food assistance to low-income households with food loss or damage caused by a natural disaster
- Available regardless of immigration status
- For more information
- D-SNAP Program Overview: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/get-assistance/forms-of-assistance/5769
- D-SNAP Guidance: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/D-SNAP_handbook_0.pdf
- In general, short-term non-cash disaster assistance is available regardless of status
FEMA Longer Term Assistance (e.g. Individuals and Household Program)
- Provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs
- Available if at least one household member is a U.S. citizen or a “qualified” immigrant. For example, undocumented individuals can apply on behalf of a minor child who is a citizen and has a social security number. FEMA can provide information about obtaining a social security number for a minor child. The minor child must live with the parent/guardian applying on his/her behalf.
- For more information
- FEMA Citizenship/Immigration Requirements FAQ (December 2, 2015): https://www.fema.gov/faq-details/FEMA-Citizenship-Immigration-requirements-1370032118159
- FEMA Individuals and Households Program Fact Sheet https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1502371943459-711a17671708a7ded53f0b22315f2597/FACTSHEETIndividualsandHouseholdIHP.pdf
Disaster Unemployment Assistance
- Requires that a person be work authorized (and have been work authorized or PRUCOL during the base period)
- For more information
- National Employment Law Project (NELP) DUA FAQ: http://www.nelp.org/publication/how-workers-access-dua-after-hurricane-irma/
Other Major Benefits Programs
- Major benefit programs tend to be more flexible about requiring documentation immediately after a disaster – but may require applicants to declare that they have an eligible status – so applicants need to be careful.
- For more information about current California eligibility
- NILC Major Benefits Programs chart: https://www.nilc.org/issues/economic-support/programs-available-to-immigrants-in-calif/
State Emergency Services
- California’s AB 2327 (among other things) requires that public employees provide assistance to survivors of disaster without eliciting any information or documentation not strictly necessary to determine eligibility
NILC’s Disaster Assistance Resources
- NILC will be updating these shortly
Funds and Services on the Ground Compiled by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR)
- Links to funds available and organizations in the region to support
Replacing Vital Records and Other Disaster Assistance and Recovery Links from LawHelp
- Information on how to replace identification, birth, marriage and death certificates, etc.
- Guide to insurance legal rights, claim guidance and more
- For more information
- Several local officials have made public statements to make clear that these shelters are open to everyone regardless of immigration status
- The list includes many churches and schools that are hopefully seen as trusted spaces
- For more information including a list of evacuation centers
Campsite Evacuation Spaces
- Although these campsites in Sonoma and Mendocino counties are not official evacuation sites, they will be open to meet the temporary immediate needs of displaced residents.
- They only accommodate those who are self-contained. Those who need food, bedding and personal services should contact a designated evacuation center.
- For more information
Local Practice Tips for Those Affected by the Fires
The USCIS San Francisco Field Office posted information on the website today:
There is also general information from USCIS on their website about immigration services are available on a case-by-case basis during a natural disaster and other options that may be available to people affected by natural catastrophes and other extreme situations:
We also spoke with SF USCIS Field Office Director Richard Valeika last Thursday and got the following information.
- USCIS SF has indicated that all failures to appear for those in affected counties are automatically being rescheduled. They do not need a request, it’s automatic. [Note: We do NOT know if Sacramento is doing automatic reschedules, they are a different district.] The list of counties served by the SF Field Office is the first link from the SF Field Office at the beginning of this email.
- If someone is not able to attend due to fires, but actually lives in a different county, the reschedule won’t be automatic, but they can make a request to re-schedule. They need to write in and explain why they missed their appointment or need to reschedule. If they need to reopen their case after missing an interview due to the fires, send the written request and explanation to 630 Sansome Street with receipt number, naturalization or adjustment unit. For advocates- you can call the Natz/AOS section chief directly. They should assist in reopening the case without fee/motion. (This is for folks that are not automatically re-scheduled, but affected. Example: I live in San Francisco and missed my appointed. This is because my parents were in Napa, and I had to go to help them.)
- Santa Rosa ASC was closed last week and reopened today (October 17, 2017). People can go to SF or Sacramento Application Support Centers with an appointment notice and they will be accepted, or they will be rescheduled automatically. (The website indicated that Oakland was also an option, but Oakland ASC is at capacity.)
Important Practice Tip: Ensure clients receive their mail and notices for rescheduled appointments
With many displaced from their homes, they may not be able to return to their last mailing address.
- Make sure to instruct or remind people how to do a Change of Address.
- The USCIS 1-800 number (1-800-375-5283) will accept a Change of Address over the phone. But they may make the change directly in the person’s electronic file. This means that if a notice from USCIS already went out, and the person missed the interview, the officer won’t see it as a change of address.
- So in addition to calling the 1-800 number, always submit an AR-11 (https://www.uscis.gov/ar-11) to make a proper record that an address change occurred. This can be done online, or can be mailed in. If a case is already pending for an interview with the local office, the AR-11 should be sent to local office. If case is already at the San Francisco office, the notice of address change and any request should be sent directly to San Francisco office.
Many of the above resources are specific to the North Bay fire, but we will update as new resources come in.