JACKSON, Miss. ? Oxfam America and the NAACP, two of the lead agencies advocating for equitable assistance in the Gulf Coast, today called the recovery efforts in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at a critical point for the future of poor communities.
Reacting to recommendations outlined in Gov. Haley Barbour?s Commission on the Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal for Mississippi, which was released online Jan. 11, Oxfam and the NAACP said that they were encouraged by the content of the report. The two groups urged state officials, who reconvened last week in Jackson, to use the recommendations in the report and not overlook the neediest groups. The 178-page report provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for rebuilding communities in Mississippi affected by Hurricane Katrina, including low-to-moderate income families.
?Building affordable housing is going to be the key to preserving vibrant and diverse communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Governor?s Commission report on Affordable Housing is an excellent blueprint on how to rebuild the lives of those affected by the hurricane,? said Derrick Johnson, state president of the NAACP for Mississippi. ?With the support of federal funds, the state will have the means to begin to carry out the plan. All of the ingredients are in place - what remains to be seen is if Mississippi has the will to make these families whole again.?
Oxfam America , the NAACP and other advocacy groups in Mississippi are working to bring attention to the often forgotten needs of the Gulf Coast?s most vulnerable communities.
?In the hardest-hit communities on the coast, people are eagerly anticipating what state officials are going to do with the billions of dollars in federal funds that have come down to Mississippi. said Deborah Bey, Mississippi state coordinator for Oxfam America. ?The risk is that people in need could be left out entirely if the funds are packaged in a way that doesn?t consider the specific needs of the most vulnerable citizens ? the elderly, the poor, the disabled.?
As legislators in Jackson prepare to file bills about the recovery next Monday, Oxfam is urging them to leverage this historic opportunity to make sure the neediest communities get the help they need. Key considerations include:
- Spending federal funds: Federally-allocated Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding of $11.5 billion, designed to rebuild coastal communities, about half of which has been designated to Mississippi. Oxfam, the NAACP, and its partners are urging state legislature to ensure that the funding will reach the lowest-income communities.
- Affordable housing: The Affordable Housing section of Gov. Barbour?s Commission Report, which outlines a series of recommendations for assistance to lower-income groups, and states that it is, ?important to ensure the availability of a sufficient supply of affordable housing.? Oxfam and its partners are advocating for state legislature to act, and vote, accordingly, on measures that will guarantee assistance to all Mississippians, including poor families.
- Renters? Needs: Although the housing debate has focused on concerns for homeowners trying to rebuild, the population of renters stands to be overlooked. Integral to Oxfam?s advocacy for lower-income groups is affordable housing, which includes rental properties and HUD Section 8 vouchers.