Wednesday, February 24, 2010

GCCW Campaign Letter to Sen. Landrieu, Feb. 24, 2010

The Honorable Mary Landrieu
328 Hart Senate Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Landrieu:

Four years and a half after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck, the slow pace of recovery, persistent poverty, coastal land loss, and climate change have created a crisis across America’s Gulf Coast that demands a powerful response from our elected officials. Our federal response has yet to properly protect the well-being of America’s most vulnerable people and places through recovery policies which rebuild lives, restore the environment, mitigate future hazards, and respect human rights. Since 2005, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana have witnessed four major regional disasters- Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike- which have caused over $150 billion worth of damage, destroyed over 300,000 homes, killed more than 2,000 Americans and left tens of thousands of families still displaced and unable to return to their communities.

As we look across America’s Gulf Coast today, we see:
  • Millions of residents vulnerable to internal displacement or mass relocation due to future deadly storms, coastal land loss, and climate change;
  • Homeowners insurance costs sky-rocketing in coastal communities;
  • Homelessness and rental housing costs rising as affordable housing projects grinding to a halt with the crash of financial markets and thousands of blighted and storm-damaged properties remaining unrepaired; and
  • Too many families unable to access proper training and living wage work to pay for life’s necessities and find pathways out of poverty.

To begin to address these challenges, we urge the President to request and Congress to grant the reallocation of $2.8 billion in existing budgetary federal authority towards competitive grants partnering with local governments, non-profits, and faith-based organizations on projects creating green jobs building more resilient coastal communities. The U.S. Congress has appropriated billions of dollars in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which have yet to reach the ground. As of June 30, 2009, almost one third of the total funds granted by the U.S. Congress to federal agencies ($39.4 billion) has yet to be spent. Of this, $19.4 billion has not even been obligated to specific projects. The attached memo outlines how a portion of these unused funds could be repurposed to allow the federal government to begin to partner with local stakeholders to meet this incredible national challenge.

Gulf Coast residents have expressed frustrations in the federal governments’ inability to address the long-term needs of people impacted, particularly among vulnerable populations, including residents with disabilities, elderly, low income, women, immigrant, and minority communities. Recent studies show America’s Gulf Coast to be home to some of the most vulnerable communities in the country to the threat of climate change and natural disasters. The roots of this vulnerability include a combination of economic, social and environmental challenges, each of which have been inadequately addressed by federal recovery policy to date. Additionally, national economic interests along the Gulf Coast, including energy, shipping, and commercial fishing, also remain under threat without significant action to thwart coastal land loss and protect Gulf Coast ecosystems.

Faced with these inter-related challenges residents, volunteers, and social innovators from non-profit and faith-based organizations have led some of the most successful efforts for promoting recovery and resiliency. Despite developing cutting-edge models for rebuilding safer, more energy efficient homes, protecting wetlands, training workers and revitalizing communities, their efforts have often lacked in scale due to limited funding. By reallocating federal funds towards partnerships with community leaders, we could begin to address priorities including:
  • Creating jobs restoring natural flood protection, including wetlands and barrier islands;
  • Retrofitting homes to withstand flooding and winds and promoting energy efficiency to bring down energy and homeowners insurance costs for low income families;
  • Helping families immediately threatened by coastal flooding to relocate voluntarily;
  • Promoting community economic development and affordable housing, including repairing or rebuilding blighted, storm-damaged properties;
  • Creating supportive housing for the chronically homeless and residents with disabilities;
  • Training local workers for high demand, high wage skilled trades work, including cutting edge green building, coastal restoration and disaster mitigation technologies;
  • Promoting local business development in cutting-edge green industries; and
  • Helping local small businesses obtain Surety Bonds to compete for federal contracts.

We urge you to support attaching a request to reallocate these funds in either the Jobs Bill now being debated in Congress, other upcoming supplemental appropriations legislation, or the FY 11 Appropriations Process. Such a plan would allow the Administration and the U.S. Congress to fulfill their campaign promises of building stronger, safer and more equitable communities across America’s Gulf Coast without increasing the national deficit. Together, we can work to put in place policies to ensure that we rebuild more resilient and equitable neighborhoods, restore the environment, and empower our brothers and sisters to lift themselves from poverty and overcome devastation.


Roberta Avila
Executive Director, Steps Coalition

Julia Beatty
Program Officer, The Twenty-First Century Foundation

Eugene Ben
Director, Benroe Housing Initiatives

Peg Case
Director, TRAC

Mona Gobert-Cravins
Assistant Administrator, 232-HELP/Louisiana 211

Mary Fontenot
Executive Director, All Congregations Together (ACT)

Sharon Gauthe
Executive Director, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)

Mary Joseph
Director, Louisiana Office
Children’s Defense Fund

Rev. Ken Booker Langston
Director, Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)

Lan Le
Executive Director, National Alliances of Vietnamese American Service

Scott Myers-Lipton, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Gulf Coast Civic Works Project

Eva Paterson
President, Equal Justice Society

Glenda Perryman
Executive Director, Immaculate Heart Community Development Corp

Marcia Peterson
Director, Desire Street Ministries/CDC 58:12 Inc.

Marie Thompson
Executive Director, Dando la Mano

Lisa Richardson, PhD
Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES)

Sandy Sorensen
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Washington Office

Bill Stallworth
Executive Director, Hope CDA: Hope Community Development Agency

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed,
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America

Rev. Romal J. Tune
CEO, Clergy Strategic Alliances, LLC

Jay A. Wittmeyer
Executive Director, Global Mission Partnerships
Church of the Brethren

Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.,
National Chair, National Congress of Black Women, Inc.

John Zippert
Director, Rural Training and Research Center
Federation of Southern Cooperatives