Bishops of the three Gulf Coast dioceses most affected by the damage wrote Nov. 9 to all members of the U.S. House and Senate stating the values the 109th Congress should consider as it addresses more than 150 bills related to hurricane damage.
The values “come out of our faith promise to strive for justice and protect the dignity of every human being, and are fundamental to Christ’s admonition that we serve the least among us,” wrote Bishops Philip M. Duncan II of the Diocese of Central Gulf Coast, Duncan Gray III of the Diocese of Mississippi and Charles E. Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana, working with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington D.C.
The bishops said they were committed to long-term development. “We know that in Florida there are still those living in FEMA trailers a year after the hurricanes of 2004. “As we rebuild, we must remain mindful that the effects of poverty, racism and difference in class exist not only in the areas that were devastated by the hurricanes, but in nearly every community in the United States,” they said. “Therefore funds to help the [hurricane] victims must not come at the expense of others who are poor.”
- That Congress support short- and long-term relief and reconstruction. This would include allowing access to health care through Medicaid; relaxing residence requirements for existing programs; giving legal immigrants assistance from programs for which they normally are ineligible; allowing temporary relief from the new bankruptcy-reform legislation; and providing assistance with education.
- Incentives to encourage the return of residents and the interest of new ones. They lauded President George Bush’s decision to reverse his suspension of Davis-Bacon prevailing-wage requirements but said they remained opposed to his granting of exemptions from Affirmative Action requirements for new federal contracts handling Hurricane Katrina relief.
- Continued federal support of charitable social programs of faith-based groups in which all are served and eligible for employment. Episcopal Relief and Development and other providers cannot do what needs to be done without full partnership with government, the bishops said.