"We have learned that acts of faith and mercy alone, no matter how profound, cannot provide everything needed for sustainable recovery. Gulf Coast families deserve a federal government that recognizes their needs by rebuilding their communities, supporting basic human rights of all communities, addressing poverty and displacement, and confronting coastal erosion."
--Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign Interfaith Statement, 2008
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the southern Gulf Coast region of the United States experienced an unprecedented collapse of its social and economic institutions and infrastructure not seen since the Great Depression. The result was widespread homelessness, displacement, poverty, abusive labor practices, and environmental degradation. A coalition of faith, civic, environmental, and human rights organizations came together in a resident-led effort at community revitalization and development.
Over the past three years, Episcopalians across the country have mobilized and responded in prayer, financial support and direct service to those in need in the Gulf Coast. However, it is clear that these volunteer efforts require the intentional aid and support of the federal government to address the many still unmet needs of the residents of the Gulf Coast.
Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA), joined by Representatives Rodney Alexander (LA), Joseph Cao (LA), Charles Gonzalez (TX), Charlie Melancon (LA), Gene Taylor (MS), Bennie Thompson (MS), John Conyers (MI), Alcee Hastings (FL), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Peter Stark (CA), and Charlie Rangel (NY), has introduced H.R. 2269, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, to provide a comprehensive federal response to disaster relief. The bill would establish a regional authority to administer the creation of 100,000 living wage jobs and training opportunities for local and displace workers to rebuild infrastructure and restore the environment in Gulf Coast communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, or Ike. Federal funding, logistical and administrative support, and conservation resources and management would be provided to rebuild and repair public infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, parks, road, and water and sewer systems. Furthermore, the federal government would provide federal funds for workforce training and development and grants for sustainable development to local communities. The bill would further aid regional development by providing opportunities for local businesses to lead and administer federal projects and programs using a competitive contract bidding process.
We now must raise our voices to bear witness to federal lawmakers that the need remains and that there is much work left to be done. As people of faith, we are doing our part; we must encourage our Government to fulfill its commitment to Gulf Coast Rebuilding. Congress should take the opportunity to provide overdue support for rebuilding communities devastated by the unprecedented number of natural disasters that devastated the Gulf Coast region. Please contact your Member of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor and support consideration of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.