WASHINGTON - March 14 - Six months after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, taking many lives and forever changing many more, NOW is proud to be part of the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign, joining with our congressional allies, the Hip Hop Caucus, Rainbow/PUSH and others in demanding that the federal government end the deadlock and start providing answers and assistance to the survivors.
First, we want housing for every evacuee. For thousands of Katrina survivors in temporary housing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made their lives a roller-coaster of eviction threats followed by last-minute extensions. Now there is another eviction threat, and those from the Gulf Coast who are here with us today could be homeless when they return. And FEMA's message to them? "You're on your own." And our message to FEMA? They're not alone -- we're here to fight beside them.
Second, we want fair elections in New Orleans, and real voting rights for New Orleanians. In less than six weeks, general elections are scheduled that will help decide the fate of their city. Yet more than 300,000 Katrina survivors may be deprived of their right to vote unless there is immediate action.
Third, we want a plan, and the funding to carry it out. A rebuilding plan must focus on survivors, not developers; and must include temporary and long-term housing assistance; jobs and education; family reunification; funding for quality public education; health care (especially mental health care and reproductive health care); recognition that Katrina assistance is not welfare; and preference for local businesses and labor in rebuilding contracts.
Finally, the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign supports the passage of HR 4197: the Hurricane Katrina Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, Reconstruction and Reunion Act of 2005. This bill would provide housing vouchers, community development block grants, counseling and absentee ballots for survivors. Local businesses would receive incentives to return to the Gulf Coast and rebuild. This bill is imperative for progress in the area, but it has been stalled in Congress.
The survivors cannot wait any longer, and they shouldn't have to.