Monday, February 27, 2006

Two-Thirds of Katrina Donations Exhausted

A tattered American flag lies in mud in the backyard of a destroyed house, December 2005 in St. Bernard Parish, Meraux, Louisiana. As New Orleans struggles to rebuild entire neighborhoods destroyed by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, many of those who were caught in its wake are still struggling to rebuild their lives.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Ethan Miller)

This is from The Washington Post:

Six months after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast, charities have disbursed more than $2 billion of the record sums they raised for the storm's victims, leaving less than $1 billion for the monumental task of helping hundreds of thousands of storm victims rebuild their lives, according to a survey by The Washington Post.

Two-thirds of the $3.27 billion raised by private nonprofit organizations and tracked by The Post went to help evacuees and other Katrina victims with immediate needs -- cash, food and temporary shelter, medical care, tarps for damaged homes and school supplies for displaced children.

What's left, say charities and federal officials, will need to be stretched over years to rebuild lives and reconstruct the social fabric of the Gulf Coast -- from job training to mental health counseling to rebuilding the homes of the poor to reestablishing arts organizations and paying clergy as they wait for their congregations to return.

The Post survey, the first detailed examination of the largest outpouring of charity in the nation's history, also found the following:

· The American Red Cross, which was criticized for slow distribution of donations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has given out 84 percent of its Katrina and Rita donations.

· 50 cents of each donated dollar went out in cash to victims.

· 6 percent of contributions came in the form of supplies -- building materials, food, water, clothing, heavy equipment -- donated mostly by corporations.

· 56 percent of remaining donations are controlled by faith-based organizations. They include such well-known institutions as Catholic Charities USA and the Salvation Army but also such lower-profile groups as the United Methodist Committee on Relief and United Jewish Communities.

What remains to be done goes well beyond even the staggering costs of rebuilding infrastructure -- projects estimated to require nearly $200 billion in government aid over the long term.

A string af rubber-ducky Mardi Gras beads can be seen in the debris around a shrimp boat that sits in the middle of a Chalmette, La., neighborhood, Friday, Feb. 24, 2006, where it landed almost six months ago during Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

What I find laughable is that the Bush White House and their Republican cronies love to play up the significance of private charities and "faith-based" organizations. And yet, the non-profit organizations have only been able to raise $3 billion for Katrina relief, and they've already spent $2 billion of that money. And it is going to take over $200 billon to rebuild the Gulf Coast region! There is no way that private charities can raise $200 billion for Katrina relief. The only way to rebuild the Gulf Coast is for the federal government to step in with a massive infusion of relief aid--and the government right now is flat broke!

But there's something else here to comment on. Consider this:

"There are many, many needs that the federal government cannot cover," said Don Powell, a former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman who was named coordinator of the Gulf's long-term recovery by President Bush in November. Many are "the crucial part of life that we all depend on," he said. "It's not public works. It's not water, sewage or utilities. It's the soul of our life."

No one has put a price tag on restoring the "soul" of a region after such devastation, but the current charitable resources of about $960 million, as calculated by The Post, will not be sufficient, Powell said.

"There are many, many needs that the federal government cannot cover." Many are the "crucial part of life that we all depend on. It's not public works. It's not water, sewage or utilities. It's the soul of our life." What the heck is Powell talking about here? The federal government cannot cover many needs that are crucial to the soul of our life? What needs? Is it food, shelter, clothing? We've got programs to cover those needs--food stamps, The Housing and Urban Development, and the federal government can provide large block grants to states to promote the general welfare of the people--think Medicare and Medicaid for health. Is it also not possible for the federal government to provide grants and money to the states for the purchase of clothing? Is it jobs? Why not develop public works programs that will hire the American citizens that were hit in the Gulf Coast regions, and paying a decent salary to those citizens--rather than allowing companies to bring in illegal workers who will work for pennies on the dollar. This is such a convoluted, contradictory, PR-spinmeistered quote that could make any rational, sane person to watch stars twirling around their head.

The Bush administration doesn't get it. Katrina is an unprecedented disaster! Not only is it going to take hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild the region, but it is also going to need to take new strategies and policy analysis to reconsider the roles that the federal government and private charities have in coping with disasters of this magnitude. The federal government has got to find ways to fund the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region. Both the government and private charities have got to work together, and figure out how they can complement each other in providing relief and reconstruction for the region. Unfortunately, policy analysis is not a strong trait within this administration. Once this last billion is exhausted--perhaps before the end of November--that's it. The soul of our life in the Gulf Coast region will start to go out. And since private charities don't have the resources or fundraising ability to pick up the slack, and the federal government under the Bush White House remains ignorant to this issue, you're going to witness another light grow and through the Gulf Coast--a burning red light of anger.


PoliShifter said...

The US Gov borrows $2 Billion a day just to stay afloat.

What cracks me up is the willingness of our gov to drop hundreds of billions of dollars on Iraq and Afghanistan, yet they balk at helping out our own country.

Katrina sent a clear message to all of America. At a recent family gathering (we all live in California) I made the comment that if there is an earthquake we had all better be prepared because FEMA won't even show up. I could see the faint glimmer of terror in my relatives' eyes.

We are basically screwed in this country. If a volacno erupts, a huge earthquake hits, a tsunami, bird flu, etc etc, any type of natural disaster, you cannot count on anything but yourself.

While Republicans may applaud this as self reliance, it is really a shame that in the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world at this point in time, that even our own country cannot help its own citizens.

And it's not even that they "can't" help, but that they won't...

Eric A Hopp said...

I won't argue with you on this one. I am so amazed at how the Bush administration is willing to spend $400 billion and more counting for its war in Iraq, rather than use that money to improve out country here. If we could have taken that $400 billion that we spent in Iraq, and instead put that money here for the Gulf Coast, and Homeland Security, how much better off could we have been?