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September 13, 2006
The Honorable Don Young
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
The House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to urge Congress to make necessary changes to both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act so that we are better prepared as a nation to assist people overcome by natural disasters.
The hurricanes of 2005 devastated the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Southwestern Texas leaving death, destruction, homelessness, and despair in their wake. The amount of destruction from Katrina and Rita is truly unimaginable. The Catholic community has responded with prayers, money, direct service and assistance to the tens of thousands of families who suffered some loss in the catastrophes. Local Catholic dioceses and Catholic Charities agencies would welcome changes in the federal response programs to make their efforts to assist people more effective.
One major obstacle confronting those rebuilding the Gulf Coast is the lack of affordable housing. FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina taught us that people need clear, consistent public information about the types of housing assistance available to them; they need to know the eligibility requirements for obtaining assistance and the procedures for applying for that assistance. Based on the experience of last year’s hurricanes and the federal response, we support four necessary changes to the Stafford Act and FEMA:
Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Ph.D., D.D.
Bishop of Brooklyn
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
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