National Service Agency Convenes Nonprofits and Government Agencies to Respond to Social Service Needs from BP Oil Spill

Aug 24, 2010

The Corporation Provides Funds to Gulf States to Bolster Future Disaster Preparedness, Applies Lessons Learned From Katrina

New Orleans, LA – Today the Corporation for National and Community Service convened the largest strategy session to date to discuss a national service response to the mounting needs of Gulf residents affected by the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill. As part of the Administration’s response to the oil spill, the Corporation mobilized federal, state and city officials, as well as social sector leaders to develop, coordinate, and execute strategies that leverage citizen service to address the devastating economic and health impacts inflicted by the spill.

Patrick A. Corvington, CEO of the Corporation, announced $1 million in federal grants to the four Gulf States affected by the oil spill, including Texas, to support the development of a coordinated strategy across the states to more effectively respond to future disasters at the convening. The Volunteer Generation Fund is a new program designed to grow the nation’s volunteer pool and increase the impact of volunteers in addressing social challenges. The agency also recently deployed an additional 42 AmeriCorps VISTAs to meet the immediate and long-term needs of low-income individuals and families in affected communities.

“There are a host of underreported social challenges resulting from the oil spill, and national service has a unique and necessary role to play in the federal government’s response,” said Corvington. “Only days away from the fifth anniversary of the nation’s worst natural disaster, this convening is about learning from our rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina and coordinating a long-term response strategy to the social service needs resulting from the spill.”

Nonprofits across the Gulf are reporting that the needs of those whose livelihoods depend on the Gulf continue to grow. Participants at the convening added that demand for clothing, food, employment assistance and crisis counseling, and other social services are hitting a fever-pitch. For instance, in Mobile, Alabama 80 percent of seafood packing plants have closed, food stamp applications have increased 50 percent and more than 30 percent of residents claim they are in need. Additionally, food subsidies in the coastal areas of Louisiana have more than doubled between early May and mid-July.

The Corporation learned from its response to Hurricane Katrina that disasters have a long-term effect on communities that are often unpredictable and heighten with time – and that coordination across the private, social and government sectors is critical. The convening brought the sectors together to develop strategies to increase pathways to employment and educational opportunities, help individuals and families access mental health services, and provide services to help individuals and families achieve economic success. Participants took a key first step toward developing a coordinated strategy to build the capacity of individuals and organizations to better deliver needed services—from financial assistance and counseling to mental health care.

Organizations that pledged increased efforts and commitments during the Gulf Coast Convening included the following:

  • Mercedes Márquez, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, solidified the Department’s commitment to address the financial stability of those affected by the oil spill across the Gulf Coast.
  • Operation HOPE, Inc. will work to provide economic education and financial literacy to individuals and families across the Gulf Coast as part of its small business recovery efforts. Operation HOPE has helped families, small businesses, and more than 135,000 individuals in the Gulf States recover from disasters in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina.
  • Catholic Charities USA will continue to contribute funding, volunteers, personnel, equipment and supplies to address a variety of human service needs.
  • Family Service of Greater New Orleans will continue to provide behavioral health services to Gulf residents and organizing parties to help supply the region with basic needs.
  • The Salvation Army will provide knowledge-based resources, volunteers, personnel, humanitarian aid, social services, and case management, as well as emotional and spiritual care to victims in the Gulf.
  • The Shinnyo-en Foundation, pledged to help meet the needs of Native American communities in the region.

The Corporation will continue to work with participants and others to coordinate efforts to response to the oil spill. The agency will report on the progress of the projects developed at the Gulf Coast Convening at its National Conference on Volunteering and Service to be held in New Orleans in June 2011.

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