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Faith-based Investors Ask Congress to Alleviate the Continuing Economic and Human Devastation of Hurricanes Katrina & Rita

On July 3rd, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), 61 institutional investors and other members of the investment community representing over $30 billion in invested assets, wrote to Congressman Dennis Hastert, requesting he visit the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita before the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has signed onto the letter (PDF).

UUA Presidential Initiative in Community Investing in the Gulf Coast

Jim Gunning, a member of the UUA Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, toured the Gulf Area this past April with members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (of which the UUA is a member). ICCR  is working to make capital available through community investments in the Gulf Area.

One of the most pressing needs in the post-hurricane environment in the Gulf Area has been to get capital into the hands of individuals and small businesses dedicated to rebuilding. FEMA assistance and insurance payouts have been all too slow, tied up in bureaucratic red tape and claims processing.

The ICCR delegation met with several community development financial institutions and credit unions in the Gulf Area. Jim was particularly impressed with two and recommended that the UUA invest with them. Under the leadership of community investment professional Vanessa Lowe, the UUA Committee on Socially Responsible Investing Working Group on Community Investing conducted a due diligence review of these two agencies.

The UUA Committee on Socially Responsible voted unanimously to recommend that the President's discretionary portion of UUA funds available for community investing currently not to exceed $50,000) be invested in the Gulf Area agencies Hope Community Credit Union and Southern Mutual Help Association. President Rev. William Sinkford approved the recommendation on June 1st.

Hope Community Credit Union

Hope Community Credit Union (HOPE) in Jackson, MS, is helping rebuild lives, businesses and communities in areas affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina by providing an array of products and services to individuals, businesses and nonprofits in Federal Emergency Management Agency designated assistance areas.

HOPE is providing 0% short terms business recovery loans of up to $5,000 and up to $50,000 to businesses beginning building reconstruction.

Nonprofit Recovery Loans—Up to $50,000 with 0% interest short term loans to non-profit agencies operating in the Gulf area.

Consumer Recovery Products and Services—HOPE checking and savings accounts help displaced residents get access to cash and accumulate funds. Convenient options for receiving FEMA assistance payments and accessing accounts including online banking, debit cards, ATM access, and a shared branch network. No one is turned away based on credit score or past banking histories. Membership fees and monthly account fees are waived for a period of one year.

Community Development Credit Unions Tell of New Orleans Rebuilding Challenges.

Southern Mutual Help Association

Southern Mutual Help Association is a CDFI in rural Iberia, Louisiana.

In response to the devastation wreaked by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Southern Mutual Help Association created a hands-on Rural Recovery Task Force and is working to build a $30 million Rural Recovery Fund to help rebuild Louisiana better than it was before. The Rural Recovery Task Force is implementing a multi-pronged approach for the recovery and long-term development of the rural areas of south Louisiana, including:

  • Enlisting volunteer and in-kind resources and developing partnerships to meet the needs of the affected communities.
  • Identifying new policies and innovative approaches to facilitate the rebuilding and redevelopment effort.
  • Working with families and small businesses through an "In-the-Field Response" to help them deal with the short-term and long-term challenges they face.

The "In the Field Response" is proceeding in three phases:

  1. Focused direct relief aimed at jump-starting recovery.
  2. Recovery and rebuilding.
  3. Long-term development.

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