( WASHINGTON , DC ) – U.S. Representative Chet Edwards today released a statement after the U.S. House of Representatives appropriated $10.5 billion in emergency funding for hurricane relief efforts in the nation’s Gulf Coast region. President Bush also today declared Texas in a state of emergency due to the influx of evacuees into the state, making federal funding available for relief assistance.
“This is just the first step, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it is vital that this emergency funding moves quickly toward FEMA rescue and relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region. Together, federal, state and local authorities must continue to work diligently to protect and assist those in need,” said Edwards.
The President today verbally declared an emergency exists in the State of Texas and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts to assist evacuees from the area struck by Hurricane Katrina and to provide emergency assistance to those areas beginning on August 29, 2005, and continuing. Like many Texans, Edwards has offered his home in Waco to Katrina victims.
“In Texas , we are opening our hearts, homes, and facilities for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The federal government has a responsibility to help communities in Texas who are generously helping others during this time of national tragedy,” said Edwards.
The President's action makes Federal funding available to the State and all 254 counties of the State of Texas . Specifically, assistance is available to State and eligible local governments for emergency protective measures that are undertaken to save lives and protect public health and safety. Emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 100 percent Federal funding. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.
“Our deepest condolences go to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, who lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families. While the devastation caused by this tragedy is vast, our faith and determination ensure that we will rebuild and we will endure. I am confident that the American spirit of generosity will prevail in the days, weeks, and months ahead, as Gulf Coast communities come together and our American family from coast to coast continues to provide needed assistance.”
On Thursday, Edwards asked the Department of Veterans Affairs about the possibility of using vacant space at the Waco VA hospital for shelter for those displaced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He was told by the Central Texas VA system that 60 beds in Waco and 30 in Temple , which are in empty wings or buildings, would be offered. Edwards is working with the VA to determine if more space is available for any evacuees coming to Central Texas .
“VA hospitals are uniquely prepared to assist in times of national tragedy, and I am working with the Central Texas VA system to utilize space at the Waco VA hospital to assist in that vital effort,” said Edwards, ranking Democrat on the House Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee. “I think the VA is moving ahead, but we have to be decisive in this situation with families in dire need, and I am going to urge the VA to not let any bureaucratic process slow down needed services to victims of the hurricane.”
As gas prices rapidly escalate, Edwards also expressed serious concern that some may be taking advantage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by price gouging Americans at the gas pump.
“During this difficult time, most Americans have shown an inspirational outpouring of support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. However, it appears that some have acted out of greed and taken advantage of our national tragedy by dramatically raising gas prices on gasoline that was already purchased and in the ground at filling stations prior to Hurricane Katrina,” said Edwards. “That is totally unacceptable and the federal government must act quickly to fulfill its responsibility to protect the public and hold price gougers accountable.”
Edwards on Thursday sent a letter stressing the need to investigate claims of price gouging to the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Joe Barton, who has scheduled a hearing next Wednesday in Washington on the energy crisis unfolding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Edwards thanked Rep. Barton for his quick action and urged the committee to determine how the decision was made to raise gas prices on gasoline that filling stations had purchased and received prior to the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.
Edwards is the ranking Democrat on the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.