As we cross the year and a half mark since the United States lost more than 1,500 people, a major American city, and had roughly 90,000 square miles devastated by the perfect storms of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Bush, I want to highlight a recently released report (“A New Agenda for the Gulf”) by our friends at The Institute for Southern Studies. The
14-page report documents the scope of the crisis in the Gulf. The report also reveals that, while state and local leadership is important, many of the most pressing issues go straight to Washington, D.C., and that federal action is needed to jump-start the recovery. President Bush and the new congressional leadership have all said Katrina and the Gulf Coast are still a top priority. The report gives more than 30 action steps Congress and the president can take now to help turn things around.
*A comprehensive review of those cases where victims have had their housing aid cut off and reinstate those found to have been wrongly terminated.
*Transfer education recovery efforts from FEMA to the Department of Education.
*Require the U.S. Public Health Service and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to provide ongoing care and testing to residents exposed to toxic pollution released in the storms’ aftermath.
*Congress should pass a Gulf Coast Civic Works Project (based on the Works Progress Administration model used during the Great Depression) that would hire residents of the Gulf Coast to rebuild their homes and communities.
Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor and poetry editor for Sojourners magazine.