Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday a new coalition of attorneys who will provide free legal services to residents facing hardships because of the coronavirus crisis.
L.A. Represents brings together law firms to help domestic violence victims, renters or residents facing employment, consumer debt or bankruptcy issues.
“These are complex situations,” Garcetti said in a news conference. “And we don’t always all understand the law … having a lawyer and an advocate by your side can make all the difference between a positive outcome or a negative one.”
Many of the attorneys will also help small businesses that now have to confront new workplace regulations, renegotiate leases, apply for relief programs or figure out how to comply with health and safety orders.
“This is absolutely vital for small businesses to get back on their feet,” Garcetti said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, they’re the mainstay of our main streets and they too often lack effective representation.”
Residents can get the help online at Coronavirus.LACity.org/LARepresents.
The mayor said the service is available to all L.A. residents, regardless of their immigration status.
“Anyone unsure how to make ends meet, anyone worried about being left behind in this crisis: We see you, we hear you and we are here to help you,” the mayor said.
The participating firms are enhancing their existing pro bono commitments to legal aid organizations, according to the website. Lawyers interested in helping can contact participating legal aid organizations to offer their services.
The attorneys would be providing crucial support to businesses at a time when the state is slowly transitioning to a new phase in its response to the pandemic, asking certain businesses to make modifications to reopen.
While Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this can begin Friday, Mayor Garcetti indicated that densely-populated Los Angeles, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, will likely be among the last cities to ease restrictions.
“I know the human cost of this. But I also know that taking steps the wrong way forward will be bad for our health and for our economy. It will kill more people and will shut everything down again,” the mayor said.
L.A. County officials announced they will be examining factors like mortality and hospitalization rates, supplies of ventilators and personal protective equipment, and the capacities of the county’s health care system, testing sites and contact tracing abilities in making their decisions.
“I don’t think people will look back and say, a week or two difference was more important than getting it right. And we certainly still need some more days to make sure we get it right,” the mayor said.
L.A. County had a total of 27,815 coronavirus cases with 1,313 deaths as of Tuesday. This means that a county with about about a quarter’s of the state’s population has half its known infections.
In L.A., 943 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Tuesday alone, bringing the citywide total to 13,468— that’s an 8% increase from the day before.
The coronavirus killed an average of 45 people each day last week, Garcetti said.
Meanwhile, hospitalization rates have stabilized throughout the county and county projections show there are enough hospital beds and ventilators to meet expected demand in the coming weeks.
“We know that while numbers get better, the threat of this coronavirus is as dangerous today as it is the first day it arrived here in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said.
Officials said they expect to release guidelines on how businesses can safely reopen sometime this week.