Thursday, January 10, 2008

GCCWP meets with the Louisiana Relief Authority (LRA)

Today, Marcus Kilgore, Julia Lang, and Scott Myers-Lipton, along with two students from Student Hurricane Network, met with Deputy Director Andy Knopp and Robin Keegan from the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The LRA, which is located in Baton Rouge, is one of the lead organizations in Louisiana overseeing the recovery.

We went with Andy and Robin to discuss HR 4048, with the hope of learning from their experience during these past two years of leading the recovery efforts. They provided us with important information about the social conditions in Louisiana. For example, they informed us that 40% of Louisiana residents between 25 and 50 are not in the work force and 756,000 residents do not have high school diplomas.

Andy said that what was needed was not just 100,000 jobs, but 100,000 qualified workers. This led to a long discussion about how the GCCW Act can provide the necessary training to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Robin added that there were other obstacles for people obtaining jobs. She felt that the GCCW Act needed to include housing stipends, child care, and transportation.

The other key point that Andy brought up was that FEMA will only pay for the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina. Many public infrastructure projects need additional funds that FEMA will not cover. Andy thought that the GCCW Act could fill the gap between what FEMA does not cover and the actual cost of the reconstruction project.

Back in New Orleans, the students spent the day gutting a house across the street from the Calio Housing Project, which is best known as the former home of the famous rapper Percy "Master P" Miller. The work involved wearing "hazmat" suits to protect the students from the dust, fiber glass, and other harmful particles.

Students knocked down the walls, stripped the house to its bare frame, and removed all the tiles in the house. The students reported back they had a good time.

Reflecting on the day, Harold Bell, a senior business major at SJSU, stated that "it was a humbling experience to interact with the local community. They have gone through so much, and I have come to realize that my troubles are only a fraction in the grand scheme of things. It was also great to work as a team and see immediate results. I mean, you should have seen that house before we started. And afterwards, with the house gutted, there was a feeling of a fresh start."


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