Aid continues to flow to the Gulf Coast
Nearly two weeks have passed since Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast, and while we are still dealing with the tremendous devastation – and will be for quite some time – we are also seeing increased signs of recovery and help in our region.
I have been extremely gratified by the strong support shown to south Alabama by the administration in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush, Secretary of State Rice and several cabinet level officials have visited Alabama's Gulf Coast in recent days to tour the devastation and to offer their continuing support and prayers for everyone affected by the storm.
I was particularly honored that Dr. Rice – the first-ever secretary of state from Alabama – spent so much time with us on Sunday one week ago.
From attending a church service with community leaders and congregants at Pilgrim's Rest AME Zion Church in Whistler – where the pastor, Rev. Malone Smith, Jr., delivered one of the most inspiring sermons I have ever heard – to working for a time at the disaster relief center in Bayou La Batre, Dr. Rice clearly showed that her heart was with her fellow Alabamians.
This past week, the House of Representatives continued our efforts to fully fund the rescue, relief, and reconstruction efforts by passing a second, $51.8 billion emergency supplemental measure. This bill, which passed the House by a vote of 410-11, was passed by the Senate and signed by the president the very same day.
Together with the earlier $10.5 billion emergency measure passed last week, Congress has now allocated more than $62 billion for this effort. In just the past few days alone, daily spending by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has increased to nearly $2 billion.
These numbers are staggering, and I am certain more emergency supplemental bills will be needed before this process is concluded.
My district in south Alabama was severely impacted by this monstrous storm. In some areas, such as Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island, entire neighborhoods and businesses have simply been washed away. But as horrific as this impact has been on my constituents, it is only a small part of the overwhelming destruction covering 90,000 square miles of the Gulf Coast.
To put that in perspective, the area commonly known as "Ground Zero" in New York City affected by the terrorist events of Sept.11, 2001, totaled just 16 acres.
There is one final point I would like to make this week. As I said on the floor of the House during deliberation of this latest supplemental, hope is something Americans should never lose. Let each of us, both by our words and actions, continue to provide that hope.
Jo Bonner represents this area in the H ouse of Representatives.