Beware of Fire Fraud and Scams

October 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured Articles, Front Page

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – When natural disasters occur, it is common to find people who want to take advantage of survivors by posing as official disaster aid workers or as relatives trying to help survivors complete their applications.

FEMA advises survivors to be aware of fraud and scams. FEMA also encourages them to report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals.

Survivors should also be aware that this kind of situation doesn’t happen only at the beginning of the response to the disaster when people might be more vulnerable. It can happen anytime. It is important to know that FEMA does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services.

Residents in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Siskiyou and Sonoma counties should be aware of common tactics used by these criminals, such as phone calls from people claiming to work for FEMA.

The caller might ask for the survivor’s Social Security number and income or banking information. Giving out this type of information can help an unscrupulous person make a false claim for assistance or commit identity theft.

FEMA encourages survivors and business owners to be vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices:

Housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA

  • Be cautious if somebody asks for your nine-digit registration number. FEMA inspectors will never ask for this information. They already have it in their records.
  • Don’t give anyone your banking information. FEMA inspectors never require banking or other personal information such as a Social Security number.

Fake offers of local or federal aid

  • Don’t trust someone who asks for money. Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
  • Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant and asks for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.

Fraudulent building contractors

  • Use licensed or verified local contractors backed by reliable references.
  • To find licensed certified contractors check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
  • Don’t pay more than half the costs of repairs in advance.
  • Demand that contractors detail the job to be done with guarantees in writing.

If you suspect fraud, you may call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

You also may report fraud by a business by filing an online complaint with the California Office of the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at www.oag.ca.gov/report or via their mailing address at:

Office of the Attorney General
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

If you have questions, you may also contact the Public Inquiry Unit at 916-210-6276, but complaints must be submitted via the online complaint form or via mail.

For the latest information on wildfire recovery, visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4569 and follow the FEMA Region 9 Twitter account at https://twitter.com/femaregion9.

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All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585(TTY/TDD).

FEMA’s mission: Helping people before, during, and after disasters.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property.

For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955. TTY users may also call 800-877-8339. Applicants may also email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or visit SBA at SBA.gov/disaster.

Californians Can Get $300 Extra a Week in Unemployment Benefits — for Now ?

August 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured Articles, Front Page

Californians Can Get $300 Extra a Week in Unemployment Benefits — for Now 

Tanu Henry | California Black Media 

On July 25, the federal government’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program ended for most states, leaving millions of Californians without the extra cash many of them had been relying on for months to make ends meet. 

The $600 extra in federal stimulus pay was added cushion to the amount states already provide for their residents in unemployment insurance payments. Created for Americans who lost their jobs due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the program was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act, which was signed into federal law in March. 

Then, last week, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved California’s application to participate in the federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program — funding that President Donald Trump authorized by memorandum Aug. 8. The LWA program provides $4.5 billion to California from which $300 extra in unemployment insurance benefits will be paid to individuals for three weeks. 

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have sought to maximize federally funded unemployment benefits to Californians. These benefits are critical for the basic security of families and communities and for our economy, which have been so devastated by the virus and its financial impacts,” said California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su after the EDD’s announcement. 

To qualify, unemployed Californians would have to already be eligible to receive at least $100 each week in unemployment benefits and they would have to provide proof that their job loss resulted from the coronavirus crisis. 

Although the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a fifth stimulus bill, the $3-trillion-dollar ”Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the Senate has not brought it up for debate or vote. That bill includes an extension of the $600 federal supplement through Jan. 31, 2021. 

Senate Republicans have countered the $600-a-week proposal in the HEROES act with a $400 weekly payment in UI benefits. Democrats turned down that offer in negotiations. 

Some Republican Senators opposed to the $600 payment approved in the last stimulus package argued that it does not provide an incentive for workers who were laid off to look for work. 

“We cannot encourage people to make more money in unemployment than they do in employment,” Sen. Tim Scott (D-SC) pointed out. 

While the U.S. Congress decides what should be included in the next stimulus package, for now unemployed Californians can apply to get $300 a week extra in unemployment benefits dating back to Aug. 1. 

“As we modernize and strengthen the state’s unemployment insurance delivery system, we will continue to leverage any additional resources the federal government makes available,” Su said.

Former California Assemblymember Gwen Moore Passes Away

August 20, 2020 by  
Filed under Featured Articles, Front Page

 Tanu Henry |

Family members, friends, former colleagues and other loved ones across California were shocked to learn about the passing of former California Assemblymember Gwen Moore on Aug. 19. Her family has not yet announced the cause of her death.  Moore was first elected to the state legislature in 1978 and served for 16 years until 1994, representing California’s 49th district (redistricted and renumbered in 1990 as the 47th district), which currently includes Long Beach, Catalina Island and parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties.  While serving in the Assembly, Moore, introduced over 400 bills that were signed into law. She also served as Majority Whip and was a member of a number of influential committees, including the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. 

 Moore was the architect and political force behind California General Order 156. It is a state supplier diversity program that has, over the years, strengthened and stabilized a number of California Black-owned, Women-owned and other minority-owned small businesses by helping them secure lucrative state contracts.  1n 1994, Moore resigned from the Assembly to run for Secretary of State. Although she didn’t win that race, Moore began to pursue other opportunities outside of elected office that influenced state policy and impacted the lives of people.  The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles-based GeM Communications Group, Moore was a sought-after consultant and worked with several prominent clients across the state.  Her family, relatives, former colleagues and friends across California and the United States reached out to each other as the shocking news of her unexpected death was shared across her political, business and social circles.  Moore served on numerous boards.

Among them were the California State Bar Board of Trustees, the California Small Business Association board and the national board of the NAACP. She was also First Vice President of the California State Conference of the NAACP, Vice Chair of the California Utility Diversity Council and Chairwoman of the California Black Business Association. For her work in California and across the United States, Moore won numerous national and local awards, including honors from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

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