Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn joined nearly two dozen members of the local business community Monday to launch a program that will offer financial services to individuals and businesses hurt by the economic fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Dubbed "America's Hope," the program will bring professionals in banking, insurance, accounting and other fields to centers set up throughout low-income areas of Los Angeles.
The centers are expected to open in mid-December in donated office space and will be staffed by volunteers from companies, including Wells Fargo and State Farm.
The group probably will help at least 10,000 people in the first three months, according to John Bryant, co-chairman of the program and chairman of Operation Hope Inc., a nonprofit group that provides financial advice to low-income residents.
An idea proposed by Bryant and backed by Hahn, the effort is designed to help people with issues ranging from delinquent mortgage payments to tax matters. Participants will be assigned a "case worker" who will help steer them to sources of aid, including grants and debt consolidation services.
"We can't stand idly by and watch our neighbors suffer," said Hahn. Since Sept. 11, "there have been a number of human tragedies in Los Angeles," said John Mack, head of the Los Angeles Urban League and co-chair of the effort.
In addition to counseling, displaced workers may be eligible to receive vouchers to take classes at UCLA and its extensions. The school would be reimbursed by employers who hire participants.
Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) said she plans to seek federal funds to expand the program, using the Los Angeles effort as "a model for others to help those at the lowest income brackets."
For more information, contact Operation Hope at (877) 592-4673.