Hurricane Katrina Recovery: How to Help

WASHINGTON, DC, September 12, 2005 (ENS) - The largest natural disaster ever in the United States, Hurricane Katrina destroyed 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast, federal disaster officials said Sunday after assessments all last week. A total of 26 states plus Washington, DC are now included in federal emergency declarations, either because they were directly harmed by the storm or because they are absorbing thousands of evacuees, straining their service support systems.

Today, help for the hundreds of thousands of storm victims and evacuees is available from a wide variety of sources.

To locate relatives and friends displaced during the storm and evacuation, contact the Family News Network of the International Committee of the Red Cross at: http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/katrina/locate

To submit a missing/stranded person request to the U.S. Coast Guard, visit: http://homeport.uscg.mil/mycg/portal/ep/home.do or call: 314-539-3900 x-2276, 2277

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Police plead with a resident to evacuate and leave her home for the safety of a shelter. Many New Orleans residents have been here 10 days without electricity or tap water, but some, like this woman, are determined to stay. (Photo by Liz Roll courtesy FEMA)
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.

Three 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.

Callers can also register their donations of goods or services or contracting services at the National Emergency Resource Registry (NERR) at: www.nerr.gov. The NERR coordinates efforts between the resources that are needed and the resources that may be available from the public and private sectors. The information is reviewed by emergency relief workers in the field, and calls are returned to those whose services or products are required.

Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance George Dale has set up a special out-of-state-only 1-800 number so those residents of Mississippi who have been displaced to other states by Hurricane Katrina may contact the department with insurance assistance questions. The number is 1-866-856-1982 and will be operational until October 6, 2005.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has established the nonprofit Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation to accept donations to be used to meet the immediate and long term needs of the thousands of Louisiana citizens whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Find it online at: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/doa/Gov_ldrfkatrina.htm

Louisiana residents can find help information on replacement drivers' licenses, getting copies of birth certificates, doing business in Louisiana, voting and elections, and other services at: http://katrina.louisiana.gov/

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Hyundai President Joo Soo Ahn presents $1 million check to Alabama Governor Bob Riley to help Alabama victims of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
Alabama is coordinating hurricane information and donation opportunities online at: http://www.alabama.gov/hurricanes.php. The Alabama Governorís Emergency Relief Fund is open at P.O. Box 1523, Montgomery, Alabama 36102. For more information contact: 877-273-5018 or visit http://www.servealabama.gov.

The Houston Katrina Relief Fund has been established to assiste the more than 150,000 people who have come to Houston seeking the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, clothing and medical care. A bank account has been established at Wells Fargo Bank to accept donations at: Houston Katrina Relief Fund, P.O. Box 4995 Houston, Texas 77210-4995. A website, www.houstonkatrinarelieffund.org, has been established to accept donations immediately.

USA Freedom Corps, a White House office created by President George W. Bush to encourage, promote and assist volunteering, is also coordinating all types of donations to the relief effort, contact: www.usafreedomcorps.gov.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website: www.nvoad.org provides information about their members and Friends of VOAD who are assisting Katrina's survivors in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and across the country.

The current critical need is for monetary donations to assist organizations at work providing relief in affected areas. These include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many others.

On Saturday night, musicians from across the country shared their talents in a broad appeal for donations to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina. ReAct Now: Music & Relief is part of an ongoing effort by MTV, VH1, and CMT to raise funds for The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and America's Second Harvest food banks and other organizations listed here.

The concert is still available via online streaming. Performers and hosts include: The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Kanye West, Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney, Kelly Clarkson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Melissa Etheridge, The Neville Brothers, Trent Reznor, Goo Goo Dolls, Audioslave, Maroon 5, Ludacris, Green Day, Usher, Alicia Keys, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews Band, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Coldplay, Hank Williams, Jr., Jon Stewart, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Allen Toussaint, Bon Jovi, Elton John, Fiona Apple, Emmylou Harris, Buckwheat Zydeco, Dennis Quaid, George Lopez, Beck, and Jewel.

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Mississippi musician and actor David Banner (Photo courtesy ejams Booking Agency)
Mississippi hip-hop artist David Banner, who performed his "Cadillac on 22's," told his rehearsal audience in New York that he gave 185 pairs of sneakers from his own closet to Katrina victims. He shared how moved he was by people who tried to flee in their cars that turned into coffins.

"They drowned in their cars," Banner said. "When the water went away, the cars went back to the ground and dead people were still in their cars ... children. This is what I am trying to get across to people. It was not a white or black thing. It wasn't no rich or poor thing. It wasn't like the water said, 'OK, here's rich people, let me go somewhere else.' I went to an apartment complex where it was just wood and dead bodies all over the place."

As of Saturday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said $688.3 million in federal aid has been distributed. More than 330,000 households today have a $2,000 FEMA grant either already in hand or have one on the way, and families temporarily residing in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are receiving assistance.

"We are committed to cutting red tape and getting help to people who need it," said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "As a result, we are getting real assistance in record time to more than 330,000 families who are hurting and, in many cases, far from home."

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 pm to 7 am. Roughly every four hours, FEMA is sending registrations to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Treasury processes disbursements four times daily. These funds have been distributed in three ways:

These $2,000 expedited payments are an initial emergency payment drawn down by those eligible for FEMA assistance. Individuals calling in or going online need only register once, as this triggers both the expedited assistance and any further assistance for which they are eligible. The maximum assistance per household through FEMA is $26,200.

Individuals can apply via FEMA's online registration tool at www.fema.gov but only if they are using computers the run a late version of Windows. Other registrants may call toll-free, 1-800-621-FEMA, or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing or speech impaired.

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Some New Orleans residents were convinced by troops to evacuate 10 days after hurricane Katrina. They have been stranded without electricity or tap water. (Photo by Liz Roll courtesy FEMA)
FEMA personnel also are setting up disaster recovery centers in the most damaged areas of the Gulf Coast to provide person-to-person assistance.

Help for stranded animals is coordinated by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is accepting donations to assist in their work at: http://www.hsus.org/

This week the HSUS will air television and radio public service announcements in support of animal rescue work in the Gulf donated by some of Hollywood's animal lovers.

The six spots feature actor/director Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), political humorist Bill Maher (Real Time with Bill Maher), film and television actress Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me), film and television actor Joe Mantegna (Joan of Arcadia), and actress and singer Persia White (Girlfriends).

Gretchen Wyler, vice president of the HSUS's Hollywood Office, worked with the celebrities to film the Public Service Announcements quickly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"The outpouring of support from the Hollywood community was just incredible," she said. "Stars are always there to use their voices for these important causes, and we're grateful that they wanted to help both the human and animal survivors of Katrina. For people who have lost nearly everything, just knowing that their pet is safe can be such a comfort."