Honorable Richard Shelby,
We the undersigned, join with Mobile County Commissioner Mike Dean, the Mobile County Community Development (CDBG) Grant Administrator and three Alabama Advocacy groups who wrote July 2, 2007 (attached) to ask that you as the Ranking Member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, \"support the proposed Gulf Coast Recovery Act of 2007, S. 1668, and work with your colleagues to include funding for Alabama in this bill.\" The July 2 letter states that Alabama\'s share of federal Katrina CDBG housing recovery funds \"cannot even fulfill the unmet needs of Mobile County, much less the other Alabama counties impacted by Katrina.\"
The Mobile County officials and advocacy groups reached their conclusion based on figures from on-site visits by a licensed inspector for 726 of the current 1,200 CDBG applications in the City and County of Mobile. Their July 2 letter also reveals:
-81 of the 726 inspected Mobile County CDBG applicants had their homes completely destroyed or so severely damaged by Katrina that rebuilding is more cost effective (subsequent research by Alabama Appleseed found that: 171 of these families homes were destroyed; 39% have annual household incomes of $15,000 or less; 31% of the families live with a disabled person; and 166 of these households are headed by an elderly person).
-Current funding will serve fewer than 10% of the 1200 families who applied from the City and County of Mobile.
-In addition to the current 1,200 CDBG applicants, there are likely hundreds of others who did not make the deadline for the CDBG applications that were distributed in January 2007. (An earlier letter to Bill Johnson of ADECA, signed by 45 organizations and 343 individuals, describes the unfair deadlines as well the lack of a comprehensive unmet needs assessment for Alabama Katrina Victims, posted at www.alarise).
The lack of a comprehensive assessment of unmet needs has a direct impact over one third of the 1200 families who applied for Katrina assistance: the July 2 letter explains that the Mobile County Commission, \"currently suspended inspections for the remaining 474 applications citing the limited amount of CDBG funds available for housing assistance.\"
One of the 1200 applications not inspected belongs to Fay Lee of Coden, Alabama. The November 8, 2007 Montgomery Advertiser guest editorial, co-authored by Jim Fuller (himself a Katrina Survivor), retells the story of Mrs. Lee\'s daughter, Caleigh, who was interviewed by WKRG TV of Mobile. She was 9 years old when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home and has spent the last of her childhood and the beginning of her adolescence \"crammed up\" and \"with no privacy\", living with as many as seven family members in a FEMA camper. Caleigh has seen her parents, who both work full time, living in a shed so that she and her brother can have more room in the camper. In the same TV interview, Caleigh\'s father, Tommy Lee, states that FEMA backed off their agreement to sell the camper and wants his wife and children to move from their property and the community where they have had ties for generations.
A Katrina CDBG grant could rebuild the Lee\'s home, but Alabama was not allocated enough funds to serve this family, nor hundreds of other similarly situated families in Alabama, who have not even had their needs documented. We should all ask ourselves: What kind of a message is our state and country sending to children like Caleigh Lee and the rest of her community
Jim Fuller thanked you in his October 21 Press Register op-ed for reserving front row seats for thirteen Alabama Katrina Survivors and their advocates at the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in September. They included: South Bay Communities Alliance representing unincorporated south Mobile County; SOS Boat People of Bayou La Batre, where many elders and children still suffer in hurricane damaged homes; and Bay Area Women\'s Coalition from the historic African American community of Trinity Gardens in Mobile -- where 80 families are in a critical situation facing another wet, cold winter still depending on ragged tarps that replaced the roofs Katrina tore off 27 months ago. The Alabamians joined 24 other Katrina Victims and allies from the Equity and Inclusion Campaign from Louisiana and Mississippi. The Senate hearing reviewed the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (S1668), and Mr. Fuller wrote in his Press Register guest editorial:
\"We were encouraged when we heard the senator, on national television, acknowledge our unmet needs. Our optimism grew further when he secured a commitment from Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, co-author of the bill, that Alabama\'s Katrina victims would be covered in her bill.\"
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) in Washington DC issued a press release on the second anniversary of Katrina stating that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged one million homes in four states, and that 300,000 homes were destroyed. Almost three-quarters of the totally destroyed homes were classified as \"affordable to low income\"; and over 100,000 mostly low income families remain displaced. This national advocacy group asks that you support the bill which could \"assist the many Alabamians who are still displaced.\"
In addition to the bi-partisan political commitment to bring long promised federal funds to the region, substantial community support exists for S.1668 and the housing and economic recovery it offers. Developers, homeowners and businesses appreciate its flexibility for mixed-income community construction, Road Home resources and workforce housing, respectively. Furthermore, over 100 national and local non-profits have endorsed the bill, including faith-based organizations such as: Catholic Charities; the Religious Action Center for Reformed Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO); Mississippi Interfaith Disaster Task Force; People Improving Communities Through Organizing- Louisiana Interfaith Together (PICO-LIFT); Project Lazarus, and Providence Community Housing.
Passage of The Gulf Coast Recovery Act, S 1668, and with adequate provisions for Alabama, could send the message that Caliegh Lee\'s family and the thousands of others on the Gulf Coast desperately need to hear - that she and her family are worthy of assistance, and that her state, her country, her fellow citizens will not let her down.
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