An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that, in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, Catholic Charities USA received more than $160 million in donations to help the needy of Louisiana and neighboring states. However, in the weeks since the BP oil spill, the group has received a mere $37,000 to help out-of-work fishermen, oil industry workers and others, according to President Larry Snyder. That’s despite working just as hard to solicit donations for oil spill victims as the group did for hurricane victims, he added.
“That’s unreal,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta said at a congressional hearing earlier this week that focused on charitable giving in the Gulf Coast region. “That’s unbelievable.”
Lewis, a Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee, said he’s concerned philanthropic groups that enjoy tax-exempt status aren’t giving enough to charities like Snyder’s. Lewis threatened that Congress might get involved, too, if tax-exempt nonprofits don’t start doing more.
“I am somewhat shocked and dismayed that the foundations do not appear to be doing their part, ” he said. “People are suffering. They’re hurting.”
At some charity locations, out-of-work fishermen line up at 3 a.m. for food vouchers to feed their families, Snyder said. Many get turned away because there aren’t enough vouchers to go around.
The reasons are multiple, after Katrina the disaster area was declared so, that meant that the major charities, the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Southern Baptist Convention and the host of Volunteers Active in Disasters, VOADS would be activated. Donations would pour in to help these agencies help others, but this disaster crept into our consciousness a gallon at a time.
We waited on BP to stop the flow, while the world of fisherman, deck hands, osterman, and the sea food processors came to a complete halt. The charities were caught flat footed in their ability to assist and citizens didn’t know how to help because the usual calls to support your local charitiy didn’t go out as they did in response to Katrina or Haiti. The personal tragedy of this disaster has not got the attention of the headlines.