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Reform Jewish Leader Urges Congress to Approve $19.8 Billion to Rebuild Gulf Coast
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today sent a letter to Congress, urging speedy passage of the full $19.8 billion in supplemental Hurricane Relief funding proposed by President Bush. The letter noted, “President Bush’s funding request plays an essential role in bringing back New Orleans. We know that other actions will be necessary in the days and weeks ahead, but this can be a step toward a real, sustainable recovery.”

Saperstein: President Bush’s funding request plays an essential role in bringing back New Orleans. We know that other actions will be necessary in the days and weeks ahead, but this can be a step toward a real, sustainable recovery.

Contact: Alexis Rice or David Morrill Schlitt, 202.387.2800

Washington, March 13, 2006- Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today sent a letter to Congress, urging speedy passage of the full $19.8 billion in supplemental Hurricane Relief funding proposed by President Bush. The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Members of Congress,

Over six months have gone by since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are still feeling its effects, and the city of New Orleans still faces an uncertain future. Over 200,000 houses remain damaged in Louisiana, and the region is still dealing with the largest number of displaced persons since the Civil War. Much remains to be done so that the city may be restored to its former glory.

We in the Union for Reform Judaism are proud of the work we have done in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our relief efforts raised $3.2 million and brought more than 3,000,000 pounds of supplies to communities in need. Since November we have helped donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to temples in the Greater New Orleans area as part of the “SOS New Orleans: Supporting Our Synagogues” campaign. But as significant as the work of faith communities and private citizens has been in hurricane relief, we can not do it alone. The government has an indispensable role to play in the long-term recovery of New Orleans. This is why we urge you to speedily approve President Bush’s emergency supplemental spending request to aid in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

On February 15th, 2006, President Bush submitted a supplemental budget spending request for an additional $19.8 billion for restoring areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. This spending request includes $4.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants for housing; $9.4 billion for FEMA’s efforts to rebuild public facilities and to provide shelter and medical assistance; $1.3 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program; $1.36 billion to armor levees, close off canals filled by storm surge and add pumping stations near Lake Pontchartrain; $300 million to repair and restore coastal areas and wetlands around New Orleans; and $2.6 billion for rebuilding federal services in the region, including $600 million for the Veterans Affairs Hospital in New Orleans.

This funding request plays an essential role in bringing back New Orleans. We know that other actions will be necessary in the days and weeks ahead, but this can be a step toward a real, sustainable recovery. President Bush’s emergency supplemental funding would deal head-on with the housing crisis and flooding threats that continue to stunt New Orleans’ recovery. On behalf of our congregants in the Gulf Coast and Reform Jews everywhere, we urge you to stand by New Orleans and help keep the President’s promise to the region by approving the Fiscal 2006 Emergency Supplemental for Iraq/Hurricane Relief.

Sincerely,
/s/
Rabbi David Saperstein



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