USA

Government response activities during the first three weeks of the recovery effort 27 Sep 2005

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published


President George W. Bush declared major disasters for areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is actively managing federal assistance to these affected communities to speed response and save lives.

Government response activities during the first three weeks of the recovery effort:

- Federal disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles of affected areas.

- National Response Plan mobilized resources of the entire federal government to support response and recovery.

- More than 72,000 unified federal personnel were deployed

- More than 49,800 lives were saved and rescued

- 637,000 households have received $1.5 billion in disaster assistance.

- Approximately 54,800 housing damage inspections were completed.

- The United States Coast Guard rescued more than 33,000 lives in the wake of Katrina.

- More than 73% of affected drinking water systems in Louisiana were restored and 78% in Mississippi.

- The American Red Cross, in coordination with the Southern Baptist Convention, served more than 12 million hot meals and more than 8.2 million snacks to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

- 50,000 National Guard personnel responded to the relief effort.

- 44 Disaster Recovery Centers were opened in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to gain assistance from recovery specialists of local, state, federal and volunteer agencies.

FEMA - FEMA has distributed over $1.5 billion in federal aid to more than 717,000 households. Families temporarily residing in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are receiving assistance in a streamlined process to urgently expedite these payments of $2,000 per household to help pay for the emergency needs of food, shelter, clothing, personal necessities and medical needs.

FEMA has thousands of phone operators taking registrations on its 24-hour phone bank. Callers may register faster by calling during the off hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Those registering should be ready, if able, to provide their Social Security number, insurance information, financial information, contact information and their direct deposit information. Registration will remain open for many months to ensure that all citizens eligible for assistance have had the opportunity to apply.

FEMA has deployed more than 87 National Disaster Medical System Teams and 28 urban search and rescue teams with nearly 7,000 personnel to save lives and render medical assistance. Teams have rescued more than 350 hurricane victims.

FEMA has moved millions of commodities of water, ice, and meals ready to eat (MRE). FEMA also supplied generators and thousands of cots and blankets.

FEMA established a Housing Area Command to oversee all temporary housing operations across the Hurricane Katrina impacted areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Housing Strike Teams are being readied for deployment into each state to begin the process of quantifying temporary housing needs.

Individuals in declared counties can register online for disaster assistance at www.fema.gov or call FEMA’s toll free registration line at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Coast Guard - Thousands of Coast Guard men and women from around the nation continue conducting search, rescue, response, waterway reconstitution and environmental impact assessment operations from Florida to Louisiana with other federal, state and local agencies.

A multi-agency task force of environmental response experts continue to remedy as many as 575 cases of hazardous materials and oil pollution in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. This federal, state and local task force is comprised of 10 agencies representing the U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as Florida, Alabama and Mississippi state environmental conservation and protection departments. Various commercial and private contractors have been enlisted as well.

The number of people rescued to date is more than 33,000 people. US Coast Guard is no longer accepting new Missing/Stranded Persons Requests. If you need to update the status of a Missing/Stranded person case file submitted to the Coast Guard through Homeport, can submit it here http://homeport.uscg.mil.

The Coast Guard is conducting port surveys and moving assets into these ports to restore buoys, lights, and aids-to-navigation, thus allowing maritime traffic to safely navigate.

Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement - U.S. Customs and Border Protection(CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) trucks delivered several thousand items of clothing to Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Jackson, Miss., Houston and San Antonio, Texas. The clothing, seized in violations of U.S. trademark laws is worth estimated at over $17 million.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's - Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) has received numerous questions regarding international students who have been impacted by Hurricane Katrina. ICE has established a toll free number (800-961-5294) for students who are attending a school that is affected by Hurricane Katrina and are unable to contact their Designated School official. Students can also email SEVIS at SEVIS.Source@dhs.gov.

National Guard - More than 50,000 National Guard members responded to state active duty in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Guardsmen are trained professionals and bring great expertise and sensitivity to their mission in support of local law enforcement.

National Guard soldiers flying helicopters from dawn to dusk are providing a critical air bridge to communities throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast with much needed supplies of military rations, water and ice. Aircrews are flying four to 15 missions per day, depending on the distance of their drops from the busy Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center airfield.

The Mississippi Air National Guard has erected a transportable medical center on the grounds of the Hancock County Hospital - a stopgap until county medical organizations can operate again.

National Guard helicopters evacuated hundreds of sick and injured persons out of the devastated greater New Orleans area.

Department of Defense - The Defense Department continues to tailor its forces supporting hurricane relief operations as needed to provide the critical capabilities required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies. Over 72,000 military personnel (22,000 active-duty troops and more than 50,000 National Guardsmen) - have provided critical security, logistical and other support.

Joint Task Force (JTF) Katrina, the military’s on-scene command in support of FEMA, has shifted to the USS Iwo Jima, docked in New Orleans. The Navy amphibious assault ship allows commanders and their civilian counterparts to communicate with rescuers and assistance personnel across the region. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of the First Army in Fort Gillem, Ga., is the JTF-Commander.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is performing a detailed assessment of about 350 miles of hurricane levee and developing a comprehensive, prioritized plan to repair it and the pumping stations that support New Orleans and surrounding areas. State and local leaders are being informed as assessments are being completed and repairs are made. The Corps continues to work with state and local leaders to make assessments and repairs of the system.

The Department of Defense made available a fleet of approximately 50 helicopters to support FEMA's operations. Eight civilian swift water rescue teams were transferred from California to assist with recovery operations.

DOD has delivered more than 24.2 million liters of water, 67 million pounds of ice, and 13.6 million individually packaged military rations to areas in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Department of Agriculture - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has deployed 2,760 Forest Service employees who are trained in rescue and response to large-scale incidents to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These teams have expertise in setting up logistics staging areas, distribution of food products and debris removal.

USDA is making more than $170 million in emergency assistance available to agricultural producers suffering from Hurricane Katrina. In addition, USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) is implementing immediate changes to its Marketing Assistance Loan Program due to the hurricane. These changes will allow producers to obtain loans for "on-farm" grain storage on the ground in addition to grain bins and other normally approved structures.

USDA has delivered or has on the way more than 300 trucks containing over 12 million pounds of food (canned vegetables, fruits, cheese and meats) and baby food and formula products, with truckloads of additional supplies being prepared for delivery to affected communities.

USDA has also authorized states to pre-load electronic food benefit cards with $50 to immediately purchase food even before application s have been processed to receive complete benefits. These cards can be used by displaced residents as they move from shelters to temporary housing.

USDA Rural Development will provide a six-month moratorium on payments for approximately 50,000 low-income residents who have Rural Development Single Family Housing Loans in the affected areas. USDA will also be taking an inventory of vacant USDA housing to help accommodate displaced residents."

Department of Commerce - The Department of Commerce has established a toll-free number (1-888-4USADOC or 1-888-487-2362) to help private sector contributions reach those who are in need following Hurricane Katrina. Phone lines will be staffed by caseworkers from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week. The caseworkers will help steer each contribution made by the businesses community through the federal government until it successfully reaches its destination.

Commerce has deployed three National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) response teams to survey priority channel and port locations. The survey products produced by these teams will help determine when ports can be reopened. NOAA will also be working to determine the impacts of the storm on living marine resources, including commercial and recreational fisheries that are economically important to the region.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is working with FEMA to lend its technical expertise from the Building and Fire Research Laboratory to asses structural damage and provide assistance. NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) will review the impact of the hurricane on small manufacturers in those areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama affected by the storm.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA), is coordinating with FEMA and identifying resources to deploy. Up to $7 million in FY 2005 funds could be deployed to build new/improved infrastructure to aid in economic recovery.

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), will utilize the Defence Priorities and Allocations System (DPAS), as needed, to prioritize procurement of goods and services for the restoration effort -- temporary housing and plastic sheeting are likely major requirements.

Department of Education - has launched Hurricane Help for Schools, to help match schools with displaced students in need with companies, organizations, other schools and individuals willing to donate. In less than a week, more than 45 matches have already occurred between schools and organizations across the U.S.

The Department of Education has modified rules for providing Federal student aid to transfer students who transfer from a postsecondary educational institution that is not operating due to the hurricane to another institution.

The Department of Education has extended application filing dates for Federal student aid for students impacted by the hurricane and extended various reporting dates required of postsecondary educational institutions.

The Department of Education has also directed student loan holders to grant an automatic three-month forbearance to any borrower whose address is in a FEMA declared disaster county.

Department of Energy - Department of Energy (DOE)Secretary Samuel Bodman has authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. DOE has also expanded their gas gouging reporting system to include a 1-800 telephone number of 1-800-244-3301or online at http://gaswatch.energy.gov/.

DOE's Office of Science has established a temporary program to match interested displaced students and faculty researchers -- who may be eligible regardless of current DOE funding status -- with research programs that currently receive grants from the Office of Science. The clearinghouse for the activity is the DOE Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, which will match hosts with those desiring to participate and will consider on a case basis modest supplemental funding to existing programs to facilitate this process. For further information, those interested may contact Christopher.Yetter@science.doe.gov or call (301) 903-4353. They may also gain additional information at the Oak Ridge web site at www.orau.gov/doeedrelief/.

Department of Health and Human Services - is offering streamlined access to benefits for Hurricane Katrina victims. As part of this streamlining process, states will be given the flexibility to enroll evacuees without requiring documents such as tax returns or proof of residency. Evacuees who have lost all identification and records should be able to give their address or other simple form of attestation to be eligible. The special evacuee status will apply to the full range of federal benefits administered by the states, including HHS programs that provide services through Medicaid, family assistance through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), child care support, foster care assistance, mental health services and substance abuse treatment services.

HHS has announced all children from birth to 18 years old displaced by Hurricane Katrina are eligible to receive free vaccines through the federally-run Vaccines for Children program (VFC), regardless of whether they are staying at shelters, hotels, or with family and friends and regardless of previous health insurance coverage status. Managed by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the VFC helps families of children who may not otherwise have access to vaccines by providing free vaccines to doctors who serve them.

HHS has declared a public health emergency for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas . This action allows the Department to waive certain Medicare, Medicaid, State Child Health Insurance Program, and HIPAA requirements as well as make grants and enter into contracts more expeditiously during this emergency.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has adopted a series of emergency policy changes to accommodate the needs of thousands of displaced Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) beneficiaries who have fled Hurricane Katrina and need urgent medical attention in their new host states.

HHS is providing $15 million in emergency funding to assist Head Start and Early Head Start grantees in providing services to children and families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. These funds will enable Head Start and Early Head Start grantees to provide services to evacuee children and families until October 11, 2005. To receive services, a family must have been forced to leave their home because of Hurricane Katrina.

HHS announced the availability of a toll-free hotline for people in crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), callers will be connected to a network of local crisis centers across the country that are committed to crisis counseling. Callers to the hotline will receive counseling from trained staff at the closest certified crisis center in the network. HHS also is providing $600,000 in emergency grants to Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi to ensure that mental health assessment and crisis counseling are available in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

The federal government will speed up the award of grants to establish 26 new health center sites in areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Approximately $2.3 million in fiscal year 2005 funds to these sites will get health care resources up and running quickly in disaster areas and neighboring states treating evacuees from the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast.

The Office of The Surgeon General and the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness to mobilize and identify healthcare professionals and relief personnel to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. They have registered over 30,000 medical volunteers to assist in recovery measures.

HHS continues to ship pallets of basic first aid materials and supplies to the area, and the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration are augmenting state and local public health resources – including chemical and toxicology teams, sanitation and public health teams, epidemiology teams and food safety teams.

Department of Housing and Urban Development - has established a single toll-free housing hotline, 1-888-297-8685, to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina with all housing concerns. This number operates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT, seven days a week.

HUD has partnered with the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to identify thousands of available homes to temporarily house displaced families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Initially, the Department identified nearly 5,000 vacant single-family HUD-owned properties in 11 states near the affected areas.

Department of the Interior - The Department of the Interior has deployed 1,489 personnel in response to Hurricane Katrina. Emergency response activities include interagency assistance under the National Response Plan; assuring public safety on Departmental lands and providing mutual aid to surrounding communities; and restoring capability of offices in the disaster areas to execute essential functions.

United States Geological Survey employees are repairing and replacing damaged stream gauges throughout the region to restore flood warning capacity; coordinating with other federal agencies to provide geospatial information, maps, satellite images and scientific assessments to help response and recovery operations; and sampling and testing water pumped out of New Orleans and into Lake Pontchartrain.

Department of Justice - has established the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, designed to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes such as charity fraud and insurance fraud. Justice has also set up a page on how to protect against fraud.

The U.S. Department of Justice is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to set up a national hotline to locate missing hurricane victims at 1-888-544-5475.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has obtained the authority to provide states access to the FBI's criminal history database for the purpose of conducting background checks on any volunteer, relief worker, or evacuee associated with Hurricane Katrina, who would have access to children. The FBI is waiving its $24.00 fee that is normally charged for fingerprint-based checks relating to employment, licensing, and suitability. This limited authority expires on November 7, 2005 and requires a state or federal statute authorizing a fingerprint-based criminal history background check for individuals with access to cildren.

Department of Labor - has three programs to offer immediate income assistance to workers displaced by Hurricane Katrina 1) Unemployment Insurance for workers who lost their jobs because of Hurricane Katrina; 2) Disaster Unemployment Insurance for the newly employed and self-employed not normally eligible for unemployment insurance and, 3) Temporary jobs funded through National Emergency Grants.

For information on how to access these benefits, individuals can call DOL's national toll free number: 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). For those able to access the internet, information can also be found on DOL's website (www.dol.gov). DOL has also dispatched teams to all evacuee sites, and has staff canvassing neighborhoods, churches, parishes and hospitals to advertise these benefits. Mobile “One-Stop” vans have been deployed to FEMA sites, including one in the parking lot of the Houston Astrodome.

DOL has created the Katrina Recovery Job Connection, a new resource focused on supporting the transition back into employment for individuals impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The site’s purpose is to connect job seekers with employers interested in hiring them for either new permanent employment or for jobs related to the cleanup, recovery and rebuilding process in hurricane-impacted areas. While the site is intended to complement the efforts at the state and local level to connect workers and jobs in the impacted areas, it is also intended to make individuals evacuated to other states aware of opportunities in their home state. Both employers and job seekers are encouraged to visit the site to post and view listings of available jobs.

DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service, has announced an extension of a number of deadlines related to health plan coverage, giving workers and employers affected by Hurricane Katrina additional time to make critical decisions regarding health coverage.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has deployed safety and health professionals to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to provide technical assistance to recovery workers in their ongoing cleanup efforts along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

OSHA has been contacting major power companies in the affected areas to provide safety briefings to employees at power restoration staging areas.

OSHA has released public service announcements to inform workers about hazards related to restoration and cleanup.

OSHA has identified home supply and construction stores in the affected areas in order to distribute safety and health fact sheets and materials to these locations.

Department of State - The Department of State advises concerned family members of foreign nationals residing or traveling in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina to try to reach their family members by phone, email, or other available means. If family member cannot be reached, the State Department recommends they contact their embassy in Washington, D.C. for assistance.

Reports from the region indicate that some phone lines are working but experiencing heavy call volume, so family members are encouraged to keep trying if lines are busy.

Department of Transportation - The Department of Transportation (DOT) is working closely with state and local authorities, federal partners, and private sector transportation service providers to assess damage to transportation infrastructure and assist in immediate recovery efforts.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will allow transit agencies affected by Hurricane Katrina to make use of federal funds to buy supplies, repair buses or equipment, or begin reconstruction without having to use matching local funds until further notice.

Work on repairing the Twin Spans Bridge that carries traffic on Interstate-10 between New Orleans and Slidell, La., has begun following the September 9th award of a $31 million contract to Boh Brothers Construction of New Orleans. The eastbound span will be repaired first, providing one lane of traffic in each direction.The contract requires work to be completed within 45 days. The second phase of the work will result in repair of the westbound span which, along with the eastbound span, will provide two-lane traffic in each direction within 120 days.

The Department has secured more than 1,639 trucks to support the delivery of more than 3,731 truckloads of goods, including more than 25 million MREs (meals ready to eat), more than 31 million liters of water, 56,400 tarps, more than 19 million pounds of ice and 215,000 blankets.

DOT has also deployed teams from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to help clear roads and inspect bridges, establish communications and increase operations at major airports, and to move generators to pipeline pumping stations to restore the flow of petroleum products to the southeast.

Department of Treasury - The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced special relief for taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Areas struck by the hurricane. These taxpayers generally will have until October 31 to file tax returns and submit tax payments. The IRS will stop interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. This relief includes the September 15 due date for estimated taxes and for calendar-year corporate returns with automatic extensions.

Several thousand IRS telphone operators are helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) answer telephone calls from Hurricane Katrina victims calling to register for disaster assistance.

The IRS has also established a separate toll-free number for Katrina victims with tax issues. That number is 1-866-562-5227.

Office of The Comptroller of the Currency - The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is working with federal and state banking agencies and other organizations to support the operations and recovery of national banks in the affected region, to support citizens, and to ensure the safety and soundness of available banking resources. Questions regarding national bank issues can be directed to 1-800-613-6743, or by e-mail at: customer.assistance@occ.treas.gov. Additional information for bankers and bank customers is available at http://www.occ.gov/katrina.htm.

The Office of Thrift Supervision has setup a toll-free hotline for thrift institutions and their customers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Call (1-800-958-0655) between the hours of 8:00am to 5:30pm CST, Monday to Friday. The Office of Thrift Supervision is the primary regulator of all federally chartered and many state-chartered thrift institutions, which includes savings banks and savings and loan associations.

Department of Veterans Affairs - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has successfully evacuated the most critically ill patients from the VA medical center in New Orleans . V A officials are establishing procedures for family members to locate inpatients evacuated from the affected facilities. Officials are also finalizing procedures for veterans from the hurricane area to receive benefits checks and prescription drugs, and to ensure that VA employees continue to be paid.

Mobile clinics are now open in South Mississippi and Louisiana to provide medical treatment to veterans displaced by Hurricane Katrina. For more information about the mobile clinics, veterans can call 1-800-949-1009 ext. 6004. Veterans currently enrolled in a standing VA clinic that is operational should continue to seek treatment at that clinic.

Environmental Protection Agency - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formed a joint task force to advise local and state officials of the potential health and environmental risks associated with returning to the City of New Orleans. The initial Environmental Health Needs and Habitability Assessment issued 9/17 identifies a number of barriers to be overcome and critical decisions to be made prior to reinhabiting New Orleans.

The EPA has temporarily waived standards for gasoline and diesel fuels in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida under the Clean Air Act. Waivers have also been sent to the Governors of the 46 remaining states and territories providing temporary relief from volatility and sulfur standards.

These waivers will ensure that fuel is available throughout the country to address public health issues and emergency vehicle supply needs. They will be effective through September 15 and only apply to volatility standards - the rate at which fuel evaporates - and the amount of sulfur in fuel.

EPA, in coordination with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, is posting data from New Orleans flood water samples of chemical and biological analysis which was validated through a quality assurance process to ensure scientific accuracy. The results show the public and emergency responders should avoid contact with the standing water and are publicly available at the EPA website - http://www.epa.gov/katrina/testresults/index.html. Daily sampling is ongoing and EPA, in coordination with federal, state and local agencies, will release data as it becomes available.

EPA continues assessment of damage to local drinking systems and providing technical assistance to help restore service in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As of 9/19, EPA has determined that 522 of the facilities in Louisiana are operational, 26 are operating on a boil water notice and 135 are either inoperable or their status is unknown. In the Mississippi affected area, there are a total of 1,368 drinking water facilities that served approximately 3,219,690 people. EPA has determined that 1,207 of these facilities are operational, 118 are operating on a boil water notice and 43 are either inoperable or their status is unknown. In the Alabama affected area, there are a total of 72 drinking water facilities that served approximately 960,682 people. EPA has determined that all 72 of these facilities are operational. It should be noted that “operational” facilities may still be in need of repair or reconstruction.

EPA emergency and response personnel are helping assess the damage and prepare to support cleanup in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Teams are traveling to affected areas and conducting aerial assessments.

Federal Communications Commission is facilitating continuing service for customers of wireline carriers that are unable to provide service due to Hurricane Katrina. The Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau has adopted an order that temporarily waives certain carrier change requirements. This will allow affected carriers to temporarily transfer customers to those carriers with working facilities while restoration efforts are under way, with minimum inconvenience and burden on customers.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is working cooperatively with all of the state and federal banking agencies and other organizations to determine the status of the financial institutions located in the affected areas and has established a 24-hour consumer hotline and a dedicated web page that includes bank branch information for FDIC-insured institutions in damaged areas. This and other information for consumers and bankers is available on the FDIC Web site (link above) or by calling the FDIC's toll-free Call Center at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342).

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – To aid restoration efforts, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has relaxed certain requirements for electric transmission providers affected by Hurricane Katrina. FERC’s rules allow transmission providers to “take whatever steps are necessary to keep the system(s) in operation,” notwithstanding any other requirements. FERC has extended filing deadlines in certain cases pending before it that involve energy companies affected by Hurricane Katrina. It has also waived certain Standards of Conduct record keeping requirements. FERC will also consider requests to extend those deadlines.

General Services Administration - The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has updated links to Web sites with useful information for victims of the hurricane and interested citizens on the federal government's official portal, www.FirstGov.gov and its Spanish-language counterpart, FirstGov.gov en Espanol .

GSA has also been providing supplies and services to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the interagency community in support of the relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

GSA hotlines are available to federal customers 24/7 in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina allowing them to access information related to buildings, products, services, technology, or other relevant issues. For Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky the number is: (404) 224-2222; for Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico the number is: (817) 978-2210. Customers may also send an e-mail to actiongsa@gsa.gov.

National Archives and Records Administration - is offering expedited services to provide federal civilian and military personnel affected by Hurricane Katrina with necessary copies of documents.

NARA is also offering document recovery advice to federal agencies and courts in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Office of Personnel Management - The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will establish an emergency leave transfer program to assist federal employees affected by Hurricane Katrina. OPM has also implemented expedited procedures for replacing monthly retirement annuity checks not received.

OPM has set up a new toll-free number for current and retired Federal employees and annuitants who have been impacted by Hurricane Katrina to answer questions about health insurance, life insurance, status on paychecks, retiree annuity payments, and disability issues. The toll-free number, 1-800-307-8298, is available between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Central Time.

Small Business Administration - Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace the primary residence. Loans of up to $40,000 are available to renters and homeowners to cover losses to personal property like clothing, appliances and furniture. The interest rate is 2.68 percent with 30 year terms and the loans are aimed at covering losses not fully covered by insurance.

Businesses of all sizes may apply for an SBA disaster loan of up to $1.5 million to cover damages to the property, machinery, inventory, etc. Economic injury disaster loans may be used to pay bills or meet operating expenses. The interest rate on both the SBA business disaster loans are 4 percent, with up to 30 year terms.

To qualify for any kind of federal assistance, residents and business owners in the disaster areas must contact FEMA first at 1-800-621-FEMA. For more information on SBA's disaster loan program call 1-800-659-2955 or vist the Web site at www.sba.gov/disaster.

The Social Security Administration has issued 30,000 checks to evacuees who are not able to receive their monthly benefits, whether by mail or direct deposit. Beneficiaries can go to any open Social Security office and receive an immediate payment by check that replaces the full amount of their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment.

Social Security is providing immediate payments and other vital services to the affected areas and to evacuees in other locations through temporary offices at evacuation centers, and FEMA Family Assistance Centers.

The U.S. Postal Service - Delivery service has been restored to 86% of affected Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana addresses, with full service available at 427 Post Offices and partial service at 53 Offices. More than 100,000 households of affected residents have filed a Change of Address. Also during the last week, the Postal Service has distributed more than 30,000 Social Security checks to residents at mobile locations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

State Governments

The states of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have established Hurricane Katrina hotlines to help coordinate public contributions of money, goods and services to assist victims. The following toll-free hotlines have been activated and are now receiving calls from around the nation and the world: Mississippi – 1-866-230-8903; Alabama – 1-877-273-5018 and Louisiana – 1-866-334-8305. These hotlines can coordinate donations of all types. A representative will take your name and contact information, as well as what type of goods and/or services you wish to donate.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is providing health services to Medicaid participants who have evacuated to Florida from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. All hurricane evacuees from impacted counties who are eligible for those states’ Medicaid programs will be given special evacuee status in Florida’s Medicaid program, which will entitle them to services provided to Florida participants. To enroll, evacuees should contact the Florida Department of Children and Families’ at 1-866-762-2237 or log on to the Department of Children and Families online enrollment website myflorida.com/accessflorida.

American Red Cross - Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the Red Cross has provided more than 2.3 million overnight stays in 902 shelters across 26 states and the District of Columbia. On Sunday night (9/18), the Red Cross housed more than 36,000 Hurricane Katrina survivors in 236 shelters.

The Red Cross, with the worldwide Red Cross Movement, has launched a Web site and hotline to help reunite loved ones. Call toll-free 1-877-LOVED-1S (1-877-568-3317) or online at www.familylinks.icrc.org.

More than 5,640 Red Cross staff and volunteers across the country and from every part of the organization have deployed to the affected area are working around the clock to serve the public need.

More than 12 hot million meals and more than 8.2 million snacks have been served to-date by the Red Cross in coordination with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Adventists and Second Harvest.

The Red Cross relies on donations of the American people to do its work. Citizens can help by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669) or by making an online contribution to the Disaster Relief Fund at www.redcross.org.

Because of logistical issues, the Red Cross cannot accept donations of food or clothing.