Lott: Coast Relief Efforts to Intensify

[September 2, 2005/verbatim] PASCAGOULA, Mississippi - On the heels of site visits Thursday to the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Operations Center in Gulfport, the National Guard's relief coordination center at the Gulfport Guard base and briefings at Northrop Grumman Ingalls Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Senator Lott said he is confident that the effort to get more food, fuel, water and supplies onto the coast will intensify.

Senator Lott took his second tour of the hurricane ravaged coast yesterday, meeting with leaders and returning to the Jackson area late last night. Senator Lott will, for the third time, tour the area today, this time with President Bush and Senator Thad Cochran.

"I've spoken with the Governor and Transportation Commissioner, and I'm pleased to report that the Mississippi Department of Transportation has cleared all state highways for travel, " Senator Lott said. "That's very important. At this stage we've got to make sure that the roads to and along the coast are usable and that emergency vehicles and returning residents have a way to get back to their homes and take more water, ice, fuel and emergency supplies into the area.

"I am confident that Governor Barbour and Adjutant General Harold Cross are doing everything they can to get more guardsmen into the area to assist with relief and reestablish order, but we certainly need more personnel. General Cross assured me that more assistance from National Guard organizations in other states is on the way and will arrive shortly."

At the Emergency Operations Center, Senator Lott thanked the FEMA, MEMA and other emergency personnel manning the center.

Meanwhile Northrop Grumman Ingalls Operations, the Coast's largest employer, told Senator Lott that they are on their way to recovery, including having made arrangements for employees' checks to be available soon, and for work to resume, hopefully within the month.

"I'm also calling many national and international corporations to secure corporate resources for the relief effort," Senator Lott continued. "More than 40 companies from Mississippi and throughout the world have contributed in some way to hurricane relief, and I expect more in the coming days."

Senator Lott said he has spoken to oil company leaders and is working with them to get vital pipelines and supply chains restored, with the goal of dramatically shortening gasoline lines at stations throughout Mississippi.

Additionally, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao told Senator Lott late last night that the U.S. Department of Labor is releasing $50 million to the State of Mississippi, specifically to hire temporary workers who can assist with cleanup and recovery efforts. In a telephone call, the secretary told Senator Lott that almost $17 million would be released immediately and the remainder in increments as the weeks progress.

That money will be administered by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and impacts the 52 counties designated eligible for federal disaster assistance.

"The President acted swiftly by making these areas eligible for disaster assistance well before the storm hit, but we're certainly going to need more," Senator Lott concluded. "I was here in 1969 when President Nixon visited us after Hurricane Camille, and Hurricane Katrina will exceed even that terrible storm. It's not about who is on Air Force One or which party the President represents. It's not even about symbolism. It's about the American people. It's about assurances to the people that our federal government knows what we're going through. He symbolizes our country, our unity as a people, and it reassures us that we're going to get the help we need."

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