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NEW ORLEANS (RNS) The social service arm of the local Catholic Church said Tuesday (Aug. 3) it’s nearly out of relief money for people damaged by the BP oil spill because the oil company has not approved a replenishment the church requested in June.
Jim Kelly, co-president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said the archdiocese and its partners have distributed $1.8 million in aid to families along the Gulf coast since May.
BP donated $1 million toward that effort, but that money is gone and Catholic Charities is spending out of its reserves to keep the relief sites open, Kelly said.
The church issued a public appeal for funds Tuesday. It was contacting foundations and prior donors as well, because the church is committed to keeping the work going, he said.
“The fact is, there are people on the ground who need money, and we’re out of money,” he said.
The archdiocese in May raised about $125,000 from Catholics in the pews.
“We’re hoping a major foundation or somebody will step up and say we’ve got to do something in the meantime. But the majors are telling us this is a BP and government problem,” Kelly said.
Under federal law, BP is responsible for compensating families and companies directly harmed by the three-month spill of nearly 5 million barrels, now the largest in history.
Kelly said the archdiocese and 26 secular and faith-based partners in June gave BP a $12 million plan to finance continuing relief for another three months.
Almost two-thirds of that is earmarked for direct emergency assistance for rent, groceries and other needs. A lesser amount was for services like mental health counseling and long-term aid for distressed families, Kelly said.
“We’ve had very good discussions with BP. We heard they were very favorably inclined. We were supposed to hear the latest a week and a half ago, but we haven’t,” he said.
BP Vice President Darryl Willis, a Louisiana native and the face of the company’s claims process, said the company is still considering Catholic Charities’ larger grant request.
“A decision on it will be coming shortly,” Willis said. “I was told last week that a decision is imminent.”
— Bruce Nolan and David Hammer / The Times-Picayune
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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