September 6, 2007 — Vol. 43, No. 4
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Bush, Congress still bear Katrina responsibility

Two years ago last week, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and laying bare the deep, persistent poverty and racial inequality that still exists in our country today.

Tens of thousands are still living with the aftermath of the hurricanes: FEMA trailers that are making residents sick because of unacceptably high formaldehyde levels, a lack of medical and mental health services, a public education system that has been seriously disrupted, and no assistance for rebuilding their homes.

But you and I have a powerful opportunity to make sure that this is not another year of neglect for the people of the Gulf Coast.

In the next few days, Congress will return from recess with 60 days to decide on the 2008 federal budget, including continuing funds for Gulf Coast recovery efforts and assistance for Katrina survivors. But the president’s budget proposal does not provide adequate funding for many of the key programs that provide housing, education and health care assistance in the region.

The president’s budget does not renew the $500 million Social Service Block Grant to help hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast fund child welfare, employment services, and other state and local social programs. And neither the president’s budget nor any proposals from Congress include additional funds for The Road Home, a program designed to help those displaced by Katrina and Rita with housing issues, even though this program was forced to stop accepting applications on July 31 because of a $5 billion shortfall.
Tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to increase funding for the Gulf Coast.

We are approaching a moment of truth. In the next 60 days, we’ll find out if those politicians were telling the truth when they made all their campaign promises and speeches about helping people recover their lives and livelihoods, or if they were just taking advantage of the victims of Katrina for political gain.

The NAACP’s local and regional branches are working hard to ensure proper health care, legal representation, education and housing in the Gulf Coast. The NAACP arrived on the stricken Gulf Coast before the federal government responded and we’ve been there ever since. As we fought for our inalienable rights during the civil rights movement, we must now fight for the rights of the residents of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. We must hold all elected officials accountable for rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward and other devastated areas.

Congress has an opportunity to act with conviction and help hundreds of thousands put their lives back together. Let’s make sure that they do just that.

Julian Bond
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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