FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saturday, May 13, 2000
Rick Malaspina (510) 987-0105
rick.malaspina@ucop.edu


(24-HOUR CONTACT NUMBERS IN NEW MEXICO:
CELL 510/333-6284; PAGER 888/797-0819)


UC RESPONDS TO NEW MEXICO FIRE EMERGENCY
Contribution, loans, paid leave, recovery task force among actions

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- The University of California today (May 13) announced a series of actions -- including a $150,000 relief-fund donation and $5,000 personal loans -- to aid the relief and recovery effort in the wake of the forest fire affecting Northern New Mexico.

"The University of California, through its management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been a part of Northern New Mexico for nearly 60 years. We helped build Los Alamos -- the laboratory and the community -- and we will help rebuild it for the benefit of the entire region and the nation," UC President Richard C. Atkinson said from the system’s headquarters in Oakland, California.

"We are saddened by the plight of our employees, retirees and friends, but we know that the people of Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico are strong and resilient," Atkinson added. "They will overcome this crisis -- and I want them to know that the entire UC community stands proudly with them during this time of need."

John Davies, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, and two senior UC officials -- V. Wayne Kennedy, senior vice president for business and finance, and Robert L. Van Ness, assistant vice president for laboratory administration -- will be in New Mexico tomorrow to survey the fire damage and consult with laboratory and local government officials on laboratory reopening and general recovery efforts.

Here is a summary of actions put in place to date through the UC Office of the President:

-- An allocation of $150,000 in UC funding as seed money for a relief fund established yesterday by UC and the Los Alamos laboratory. The UC Northern New Mexico Fire Relief Fund will help all area residents affected by the fire. Contributions should be directed to Los Alamos National Bank, PO Box 60, Los Alamos, NM 87544, telephone (505) 988-3200; account number 96358501

-- Personal loans funded by UC of up to $5,000 at a 6.1 percent interest rate for 36 months. These are available immediately to UC laboratory employees and DOE and other community members based on individual cases. Application forms are available at http://www.ucop.edu/bencom/news/losalamos.html

-- A task force assembled by UC experts of current and former City of Oakland officials who were instrumental in guiding recovery efforts from a major 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area and a fatal 1991 firestorm that devastated neighborhoods in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills. About 225 UC employees from campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories lost their homes in the fire. Los Alamos County officials have accepted an offer facilitated by UC for Oakland counterparts to visit and consult on a variety of technical and humanitarian "lessons learned" from the earthquake and fire that will apply to Los Alamos and the region in the months ahead.

-- Emergency loans from UC employees' 403(b) accounts. For hardship withdrawals from the 403(b) plan, employees should call Bonnie Min at 1-800-888-8267, ext. 79396. For 403(b) loan information, call Daniel Scuiry at 1-800-888-8267, ext. 70192.

-- An expanded policy providing leave with pay for laboratory employees unable to come to work because of the closure of the laboratory, loss of their homes, evacuation, or road closures and other fire-related conditions. In addition, supervisors and managers will be encouraged to allow flexible work schedules as affected employees begin to make necessary adjustments to their circumstances.

-- Additional on-site counseling services, as necessary, from professionals associated with UC through the Office of the President, UC’s nine campuses and five medical centers.

In addition to these actions, UC President Atkinson on Monday will issue a personal appeal to faculty, staff, alumni and students throughout the UC system encouraging them to donate to the fire relief fund and to contribute in other ways as they are able to do so. Numerous inquiries and offers to of help have come to UC in recent days from employees and retirees of UC’s 10 campuses and Los Alamos’ sisters DOE laboratories at Berkeley and Livermore.

A special section has been added to UC existing Web site on DOE laboratory management to provide more information and link to existing sites offering information on the fire and relief and recovery efforts. The address for the UC Web site is http://labs.ucop.edu. The standard UC benefits Web site also has information on fire relief for employees: http://www.ucop.edu/bencom/

Information about fire relief activities and services also is being distributed via the UC Spanish-language media service. It provides news and information to more than 200 Spanish-language and bilingual print and broadcast outlets in California and other western states, including New Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

More information on these and other actions will be provided as it becomes available.

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