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Committee tackles unmet needs

By By ANNA M. LEE Managing Editor
Continued recovery from that life-changing event -- Hurricane Ivan -- was the primary topic of discussion at the meeting.
To address those problems, a Long Term Recovery (LTR) committee has been established, and the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County voted on Saturday to act as the organizational home for that group.
FEMA representative Harry Kellogg pointed out that the number of people known to be in need will continue to grow because that information is still being gathered.
So far, the committee has identified at least 58 families in the county who have received the maximum amount of assistance and still have a need valued at $750,000, Bailey said.
Also, damage may have been compounded since the hurricane. Recently, storms have caused additional water damage in homes already damaged by Hurricane Ivan, Bailey said, and mold problems may exist now that were not detected in initial FEMA inspections.
Another impediment to long term recovery from Ivan is the difficulty in simply reaching and identifying those in need. It's important for families to fill out the FEMA consent for release form, giving FEMA permission to release their information for this process, Bailey said.
According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, Bailey said, 68 percent of people over the age of 16 in Escambia County fall into levels 1 and 2 of literacy, meaning many will have difficulty reading and filling out forms for assistance. For this reason, it's important that case managers who are trying to provide assistance to those people will need to also help them with paperwork.
Johnson is a liaison between churches here and the national organization. Johnson reports to the national group what he learns here, helping them make funding decisions and dispatch volunteers.
Churches are important to the efforts of long term recovery because they have a lot of people willing to volunteer to serve in an outreach capacity, White said.
The LTR committee will meet this Thursday in Brewton at the Department of Human Resources office in Brewton. The committee emphasizes that its efforts are meant to benefit the entire county.
As Johnson said Saturday, if different communities attempt to deal with long term recovery on their own, they will be in competition for the same limited resources.
Under the direction of this county-wide entity, recovery efforts can be best directed toward all residents of the county who need it.