New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10/05/05
CONTACT:Barbara S. Straczynski
Communications and Marketing Manager
732-937-7524

NJSBA Offers Handbook For Katrina Evacuees On Legal Issues

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Gulf state evacuees affected by Hurricane Katrina can now obtain a handbook offering guidance with the myriad legal issues facing disaster victims who are relocating to the state.

Intended both as a reference guide to individuals and families who have moved to New Jersey, and as a resource to lawyers who are helping them, the “Handbook for Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina Moving to New Jersey” was prepared by the law firm of McCarter & English, LLP and is being distributed by the New Jersey State Bar Association as part of its Mass Disaster Response Program.

“In past emergencies, New Jersey attorneys demonstrated outstanding volunteerism, and the fact that McCarter & English put together a handbook covering the most relevant issues for evacuees to New Jersey so quickly, is a testament to this commitment to community service and helping those in need,” said NJSBA President Stuart A. Hoberman.

The 98-page handbook covers a wide array of issues, including credit card and banking issues, changing a postal address, protecting against identify theft, transferring child support, obtaining emergency financial and housing assistance, getting children enrolled in school, and more.

“Since the hurricane events in the gulf states, the NJSBA has reached out to its members by email and by posting information on our website to inform our members on the various relief efforts and how to provide assistance. We are pleased to be able to provide useful information for evacuees and their legal counsel, and we praise McCarter & English for their worthwhile and timely effort to complete this useful handbook,” said NJSBA President Stuart A. Hoberman.

The handbook will be made available to New Jersey evacuees through New Jersey’s Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disasters (VOAD), the United Way and Red Cross. Additional copies can be obtained by calling the NJSBA disaster hotline at 888-541-1900.

The handbook is also available at www.njsba.com. From the first item on the home page, select “Please click here to see messages from several state bars in the gulf region.”

Also at this “Gulf Region Assistance Information” page, visitors can access messages and links for relief programs from the Louisiana State, Mississippi State, Atlanta and American Bar Associations. The NJSBA is also serving as a central clearinghouse for matching displaced attorneys seeking temporary office space. Forms for donating space are available on the Gulf Region page.

The first section of the handbook on disaster assistance offers guidance on how to apply for assistance and what happens afterward.

Part III on family/medical Issues covers people with disabilities, mental health, contact with family members and/or missing persons and child support.

Dealing with financial issues are critical to reestablishing families following catastrophic events and the handbook provides guidance on important banking issues such as accessing bank accounts, reaching the bank or credit union, local banks not cashing checks and withdrawing funds from credit unions. Depositing and withdrawing funds, bank services for displaced people, bank loans, and security of money in banks are also addressed.

The section on credit and debt issues offers information on allowances being made by financial institutions, debt obligations, receiving a bank loan, debt collection, credit reporting, consumer protection and fraud and dealing with identify theft.

The handbook provides useful information on housing, including FEMA’s Disaster Housing Program, landlord-tenant issues, and buying a house in New Jersey.

Identification and vital records are covered in part VII of the handbook and address driver’s license and state ID issues; birth certificates, death certificates and marriage/divorce records; U.S. passports; and social security cards.

A section on immigration issues is available for non-citizens displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Insurance issues and common questions are addressed as well as mail and change of address. The New Jersey education portion discusses schools, high school diplomas and GEDs and higher education.

The extensive public benefits section includes information on county welfare agencies, disaster unemployment assistance, employment, food stamps, WIC, WFNJ/TANF general assistance benefits, emergency assistance benefits, New Jersey Family Care, assistance with utility bills, private assistance, social security benefits, veteran’s benefits and Medicare/Medicaid.

In addition, the tax issues chapters in the handbook discuss special tax relief for Hurricane Katrina taxpayers, extensions for deadlines to file and pay taxes, replacing lost documents, casualty loss deduction and other deductions, exclusions or deferrals from paying income tax, tax issues relating to retirement plan withdrawals and getting help.

The NJSBA established a Mass Disaster Response Program in 1995 following a pipeline explosion that left many with nowhere to run for competent and objective legal guidance. The program has been utilized in recent years to assist victims of the Hurricane Floyd and World Trade Center disasters.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice.

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