USA

USA Hurricane Katrina: What government is doing 12 Sep 2005

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Situation Report
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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.
What Government is Doing (as of September 12, 2005)

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

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

- 71,100 unified federal personnel have been deployed

- More than 48,500 lives have been saved and rescued

- 248,431 people have been evacuated and safely housed in shelters in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

- 364,000 households have received $818.5 million in disaster assistance.

- Commodities delivered to date include:

* 22.5 million MREs

* 53.3 million liters of water

* 1.7 million pounds of ice

* 32 tons of basic first aid supplies

* More than 600 buses to transport evacuees

- The United States Coast Guard rescued more than 23,800 lives in the wake of Katrina.

- More than 17,000 volunteer medical personnel have registered with Health and Human Services to assist in recovery.

- The American Red Cross, in coordination with the Southern Baptist Convention, has served more than 7.6 million hot meals and more than 6.6 million snacks to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

- 43,000 National Guard are on the ground in three states.

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

FEMA - FEMA has distributed nearly $818.5 million in federal aid to more than 364,000 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 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.

The Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Louisiana are working together with local industries to recover spilled oil and mitigate further environmental damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The numbers of rescues have decreased significantly in the last few days. The number of people rescued to date is more than 23,909 people. People who are still in need of rescue or know of someone in need, can submit information at http://homeport.uscg.mil. People should also contact their state emergency operation centers are (225) 925-7707 or 7709 or 3511 or 7412.

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.

National Guard - There are more than 46,000 National Guard members on 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 is tailoring its 70,000-member force supporting hurricane relief operations as needed to provide the critical capabilities required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies. The current military support force - 22,000 active-duty troops and more than 46,000 National Guardsmen - continue to provide 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.

Two C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing are preparing begin the first mosquito-spraying missions in the region today. The initial focus will be the New Orleans area, then outlying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, if required.

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 789 beds available in field hospitals at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the 14th Combat Support Hospital, and aboard USS Bataan, USS Iwo Jima, USS Tortuga and USS Shreveport.

DOD currently has 20 Navy ships on station in the region to provide medical support, humanitarian relief, and transportation.

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 50,000 low-income residents in the affected areas. USDA will also be taking an inventory of vacant USDA housing to help accommodate displaced residents.

Department of Education - is setting up a Web page, www.ed.gov/katrina, which will serve as a clearinghouse of resources for Americans who want to help the students displaced by the hurricane.

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/.

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 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.

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 are in the process of mobilizing and identifying healthcare professionals and relief personnel to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. They have registered more than 17,000 medical volunteers to assist in recovery measures.

HHS established a network of medical shelters, staffed by 4,000 medical personnel with a collective capacity of 10,000 beds throughout the region affected by Hurricane Katrina.

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.

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.

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.

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 also been working with the States and with local businesses to help link up displaced workers with job opportunities. Both employers and job seekers should visit America's Job Bank at www.ajb.org. Employers in particular, many of whom have expressed an interest in hiring displaced workers, are encouraged to visit the site to post listings of available jobs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to coordinate with the interagency community in providing support as outlined in the National Response Plan.

OSHA Region VI has deployed its eight member Emergency Response Team to Baton Rouge to assess the situation and provide technical assistance to recovery workers and utility employers engaged in power restoration.

In addition, OSHA is contacting major power companies in the affected areas to provide safety briefings to employees at power restoration staging areas.

OSHA is releasing public service announcements to inform workers about hazards related to restoration and cleanup.

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 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.

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.

Environmental Protection Agency - The Environmental Protection Agency (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 estimates the number of water systems affected by the hurricane is now 73 in AL , 555 in MS and 469 in LA. In AL , many water systems were disabled or impaired by loss of electrical power. Five systems in AL currently have boil water advisories. EPA continues its assessment of damage to local drinking water systems in MS, and provides technical assistance to help restore safe drinking water to those systems.

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.

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.

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.

American Red Cross - Shelters more than 250 American Red Cross shelters are open in nine states: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia, with more on standby.

More than 142,000 evacuees are being sheltered, not including the operation to transition evacuees from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston.

More than 485 Red Cross shelters have been opened in 18 states -- including Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ky., La., Md., Mo., Miss., N.C., Okla., SC., Texas, Tenn, Utah, Va. and W.Va. -- with more on standby.

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 3.3 hot million meals and more than 3.9 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 served more than 500,000 meals working closely with several partners, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Adventists and Second Harvest to provide emergency food to survivors and responders. In coordination with the Southern Baptists, preparations are underway to serve nearly 500,000 hot meals each day.

Houston Astrodome Shelter -- The Red Cross is supporting government officials in the relocation of more than 23,000 hurricane survivors from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. The organization is mobilizing to provide blankets, cots and food for the evacuees.

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.