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The wrong time to say, 'No, thanks' (Katrina)

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-12-07 10:23 AM
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The wrong time to say, 'No, thanks' (Katrina) ;_ylt=Ap1E92gNoY0QLMQKlUnLO3LMWM0F

The wrong time to say, 'No, thanks'

By Joyce King Fri May 11, 6:34 AM ET

More than 20 months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, many local governments and citizens still lack adequate funds to begin rebuilding their lives. So it's all the more puzzling that in the wake of those storms, this country turned back or wasted most of the more than $850 million in foreign cash and oil donations pledged by at least 150 countries to help the stricken areas. The expense to U.S. taxpayers since then: about $110 billion.

Someone should be held accountable for this monumental failure at the worst of times.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chairwoman of the Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, plans to hold hearings this summer to determine where the disaster relief system broke down and what the best course for the future will be. "We will get to the bottom of how this administration could so foolishly turn away an outstretched hand in a time of such desperate need," she has said.

Government communications and documents compiled by the public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and first reported by The Washington Post, show that only $44 million of the donations have been used. Most of the rest went uncollected. Private organizations, churches and citizens are still working diligently to raise money for the hurricane-ravaged areas. So it made no sense, even for the richest country in the world, to turn away cash. In the early days after the disaster, the State Department told foreign contributors that the aid was reaching victims, letting PR get in the way of the facts on the ground.

Landrieu's spokesman, Adam Sharp, says it was troubling that more attention was given to spin control than to addressing ways to collect and distribute the relief. In response to the report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CBS, "It was a new circumstance (receiving foreign donations), and I would be the last to say that everything was handled perfectly."

If our federal government had a disaster relief plan in place to coordinate distribution of donations, including foreign aid, organizations such as the Salvation Army could have taken it from there. The Salvation Army is adept at distributing donations. Major George Hood, national community relations director for the organization, says that no one sector can tackle the job alone, and that the Army is eager to step in next time. "We would welcome a discussion with the federal government, along with other NGOs, on how to address future support during a catastrophic response."

Next week, the Salvation Army in Beaumont, Texas, will hold its annual fundraiser. The theme is "From Recovery to Rebuilding: One Life at a Time." Think how many lives $800 million would have helped.
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