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SENATOR ENZI OPENING STATEMENT

HURRICANE KATRINA ROUNDTABLE

Sept. 8, 2005

 

America is facing an epic tragedy unlike anything this generation has ever seen. In the days that have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated so much of the Gulf region of our country, the media has provided us all with a window from which we have been able to witness the impact this terrible storm has had on countless lives in the region. Yet, as with every disaster inflicted on the United States, we will relieve the hurting, repair the damage and restore hope in these communities.

 

Rescue efforts are still in motion. Now is not the time to play the blame game. Instead, it is a time for us to work together to put feet to our prayers and start the process of addressing the short and long term needs of the people who were devastated by the storm.

 

Every relief effort must begin by identifying those who are most in need and directing the resources they need to them. The displacement of those affected by the storm has made that very difficult. If you need assistance to help you recover from the storm’s impact, you must register with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) by calling 1-800-621-FEMA – that’s 1-800-621-3362. You can also register online at their website (www.fema.gov). Once you have registered, FEMA will help you find your way through the system that is being developed so that your needs will be addressed.

 

If you didn’t get a chance to write that down, don’t worry. We are going to make this information and more available on our Committee website. It’s an easy address to remember – help.senate.gov For those who can access the Internet we will provide links you can use to donate your time or your services or provide financial assistance to those in such great need. We will also link up with those agencies of the government that are involved in the relief effort.

 

Senator Kennedy and I called for today’s Roundtable because we are faced with an unprecedented challenge – how to care for a million people who have been displaced throughout the country.

 

Much of what lies before us is simple common sense. Get rid of the water, remove the debris, and restore power. These tasks will be challenging enough. Yet, beyond the obvious needs are even more challenging needs that must be met. Their children need to go to school. Families need reliable access to health care. Moms and dads need training to help them find jobs to support their families.

 

It’s a challenge we will have to answer without any of the traditional means of support or infrastructure for these programs. Remember, much of the area that has been devastated is not collecting a penny of tax revenue. Stores are closed, so businesses aren’t collecting sales taxes, and workers are without jobs so they aren’t receiving paychecks that would normally help to pay for the services that we will have to provide.

 

As a former Mayor, I have seen for myself the devastation caused by severe weather. Just recently Wright, Wyoming was hit by a tornado that did a lot of damage to the town. Plans to rebuild Wright are, of necessity, going to have to include support and cooperation on the local, state and federal level – much the same as this tragedy will. It will also call on us to develop innovative and creative strategies that will cut through the red tape and provide the assistance that is needed quickly and efficiently.

 

That is why we have called in some of our nation’s most talented individuals. We are looking forward to receiving their suggestions as to what we should do next as we work to produce a plan of action that will see us through the after effects of this storm – and provide us with a strategy we can use to respond to future such events.

 

We are currently focused on New Orleans, as we should, but we must also keep in mind that there are great needs for help in Mississippi and Alabama. And we should not ignore the needs of communities to which displaced families have been moved.

As the old adage says so well, failing to plan means planning to fail. That is why our plan of action must be based on a team approach that will include local, state and national officials as well as the private sector and community and faith-based organizations. Since our local officials have the best sense of what is needed and how it can be best placed to ensure maximum effect, they will have an important seat at the table. Then, working together with state officials, we will coordinate our efforts with theirs to ensure we have the ability to provide the support that is needed for the programs that will be established on the federal, state and local levels.

 

The size and scope of this problem is such that we must bring every resource we have to bear on the problem. This includes the American people. Already, there are countless Americans providing support to relief efforts, volunteering at centers that are working with those displaced by the hurricane, and opening up their homes to those who have nowhere else to go. It is the kind of character test that America has always passed with flying colors. The need is so great we cannot ignore our most important asset – the hearts and minds of the American people. They are and will continue to be an important part of the recovery effort.

 

This Roundtable will help direct the steps we will take in the days, weeks and months to come to ensure that we keep our commitment to those in need. There is no more urgent task facing us. We have seen the unprecedented suffering that has resulted from Hurricane Katrina. Now, we are going to do our part as the government of the people to inspire and sustain the very best of human nature to renew and rebuild hurting families and communities.

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HURRICANE KATRINA ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS

 

1. Michael Casserly, Great City Schools

 

2. Dr. Leonard Merrell, Superintendent of Katy Independent School District

 

3. Dr. Diane Roussel, Superintendent of Jefferson Parish School District

 

4. Alabama Education Department Task Force

Dr. Eddie Johnson, Deputy Superintendent

Feagin Johnson, Assistant Superintendent

Craig Pouncy, Assistant Superintendent

Maggie Rivers, Director Federal Programs

Perry Taylor, School Architect

Perry Fulton, Child Nutrition

 

5. Dr. Jennifer Leaning, Professor of the Practice of International Health, Harvard School of Public Health

 

6. Lisa Cox, Assistant Director for Federal Affairs, National Association of Community Health Centers

 

7. Charlie Ware, Chairman, Wyoming Workforce Development Council

 

8. Mark Shriver, Vice-President and Managing Director, Save the Children

 

9. Kenneth Weigand , Vice-President for Human Resources, Walgreen’s

 

10. Joseph E. Savoi, Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education

 

11. Kathleen Smith, President, Education Finance Council

 

12. Major Marilyn White, National Consultant on Adult Ministries, Salvation Army

 

13. Maurice Emsellem, Public Policy Director, National Employment Law Project