Women’s Organization has Ideas for Change

One month after Hurricane Katrina women and families are at risk of being left behind, according to Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW).

“The last month has provided graphic and disturbing examples of how fragile the lives are for many of America’s women and families,” said WOW. “Despite the outpouring of individual, community, and national support for the victims affected by Katrina’s aftermath, we have yet to make a commitment to address the specific needs of those women and families who remain vulnerable.”

In responding to the Katrina disaster, the federal government allocated $62 billion to address the needs of the hundreds of thousands of evacuees from the destruction, as well as the rebuilding effort.

Many families are now far from the support system their own communities provided, an informal system that had helped them bridge the gap between too little money and too many expenses, according to WOW.

The indefinite suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act in every county touched by Hurricane Katrina (including Miami, FL) has given contractors permission to cut the pay of construction workers below the prevailing levels prior to Katrina.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) announced that they will grant exemptions from existing Affirmative Action Program requirements for new federal contracts relating to Katrina relief efforts.

Further, the Bankruptcy Reform Act effective Oct. 17th will hit women and their families the hardest by imposing harsh provisions on low and moderate-income filers, who are disproportionately women, said WOW.

“It is not too late to change course and develop strategies that build communities and help women and families move to real economic well-being,” stated the organization.

While some of the Gulf States have begun to include residents and community organizations in the developments of master plans, the process must be expedited, suggested WOW, who added the importance of reinstating the application of labor and civil rights protections.

Another idea was to develop efforts to link rebuilding to economic development strategies that upgrade the jobs and skills of those in the region as well as those who have been displaced and to create a comprehensive system of job training and education with specific resources designated to help women and minorities have access to pre-apprenticeship programs, on the job training, and work supports that enable them to fully participate in the rebuilding of their communities.

Efforts for the Gulf Coast must include the combined investment of the government, business, and volunteer sectors and reach families who have been relocated across the country who are far from their support system, says WOW.

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