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Work on Gulf
Coast Report Card Continues
By Matt Hackworth
Church World Service
Iselin, N.J., Nov. 7, 2007 – Nearly one year since issuing its landmark report on rebuilding the Gulf Coast, the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) continues to evaluate federal, state and local agencies on recovery efforts.
The nearly 20 members of the NCC's Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast have made more than a dozen visits to the disaster area since the 2005 hurricanes struck. A report on their work was presented to more than 200 delegates at the 2007 General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service.
In August the special commission met with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
"He was very strong in taking care of some the needs of Katrina victims but there is always room for improvement," said Bishop Thomas Hoyt, past president of the NCC who co-chairs the special commission.
The commission urged the governor to reconsider his decision to steer millions in federal Community Development Block Grant funds away from housing assistance to a port re-development project.
Such are the matters in which the group finds itself now engaged, more than two years after the devastating 2005 hurricane season.
The group is tasked with monitoring and evaluating rebuilding from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, grading agencies in seven categories: providing a timely response to the storms, administering funds, housing assistance, insurance matters, improving schools, healthcare and environmental issues.
In its February 2007 Report Card the commission highlighted government failures and problems in Louisiana, Mississippi and New Orleans.
Delivering at least a dozen "Fs," Mississippi earned the report card's highest marks, two "Bs," for its work in ensuring environmental safety and functional schools after Hurricane Katrina.
The Report Card was the beginning of the commission's task. Since its release, the commission has liaised with national and local groups focused on helping the Gulf's poorest communities rebuild.
It has brought Gulf pastors to Capitol Hill to testify, and sponsored an Ecumenical Work Week, where volunteers from NCC denominations came together to work on storm-damaged homes in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss. A second week is planned for August, 2008.
A follow-up to the Report Card will be issued soon focusing on the combined volunteer, financial and other efforts of NCC member communions top assist with rebuilding.
Bishop Hoyt said the group will continue to work as long as recovery is underway, which is estimated to take as long as 15 years.
General Assembly on site contacts: Ann Walle, Church World Service;
Wesley 'Pat' Pattillo, National Council of Churches USA.
Picture by Kathleen Cameron
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