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Many victims of natural disasters spend significant period of times living in poverty.  And, as research reflects, living in poverty is often associated with increased risk of being involved in criminal activity or becoming a victim of crime.  Much work needs to be done to alleviate the impact on poverty on victim’s of natural disasters as well as on assisting the victims in overcoming the physiological effects of the disaster on their life.  In order to do this, the government has established policies to protect and serve victims of disaster.  Social workers serve as a catalyst by which the government can enact the policy and begin a cycle of change.The economic constraints of poverty forces the poor to dwell in the precarious homes.  Even government housing and urban development policies overlook the need for land use planning thus inviting serious social and environmental problems. At this time, inadequate services and infrastructure makes the survival efforts more complicated.  However, the government did not respond to the cries and needs of the people until the news media got involved, showing the public masses horrific pictures of the conditions under which the disaster victims lived.Social workers also got involved in pushing policy makers to enact change in their disposition towards victims of the Katrina disaster.  The National Association of Social Workers is called upon national policy makers to provide expanded social services – including mental health services, income supports and job training, school social work services, and health care – for Katrina survivors displaced across the U.S.  According to NASW President Elvira Craig de Silva, DSW, ACSW, “rebuilding the social services infrastructure is essential to the overall hurricane recovery effort. NASW and the half million social work professionals it represents are completely committed to helping restore dignity to the people and communities affected by this tragedy” (Nadelhaft, 2005). In order to aid and respond to the needs of the victims of natural disasters, the United States government FEMA department underwent a severe reorganization.  At the same time, policy makers began to take interest in serving the needs of victims of disaster.About 69,000 Louisianans whose jobs were washed away by Hurricane Katrina were entitled to receive unemployment benefits for a period of at least one year, an unprecedented amount of time prior to the involvement of FEMA and supporting policy makers..Many of the Louisianans receiving the aid have been displaced to other states, especially Mississippi and Texas, where the unemployment rate for Katrina victims is 25 percent.At one time, nearly 300,000 Katrina victims from Mississippi and Louisiana received special help from the federal disaster unemployment benefits program, which helps people who have exhausted state unemployment benefits or were self-employed and therefore ineligible for state aid (Radelat, 2006).The victims of Hurricane Katrina are not without skills.  One displaced victim by the name of Sharon Holley Bendtsen, 57, is a former schoolteacher.  Following the hurricane, Bendtsen lived with her husband in a FEMA trailer on a lot outside of her flooded lakefront home.  She has been looking for work in every parish in south Louisiana, but jobs for teachers are currently in shortage.  Her only two options at the time are to work in retail or construction.  Bendesten is one of some 83,000 workers receiving Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits as a result of the policy change.Although the number of workers getting DUA benefits has declined, as some have successfully returned to work, several hurdles remain for people like Bendtsen and Johnson, said Don Baylor, policy analyst with the CPPP’s Austin office.  Hurdles in job placements include poor public transportation in larger cities, especially Houston; trouble getting documents such as birth certificates; lack of Spanish skills, particularly in the service industry; and suspicions they would quit and return to New Orleans (Wilson, 2006).New Orleans has 10,800 fewer construction jobs than before Katrina.  Meanwhile, the state Labor Department counts a much lower rate of unemployment, which is supposed to measure people unemployed and actively searching for work (Randolph, 2006).Passing and funding legislation and policies that protect victim’s of the Katrina disaster are expensive, to say the least.  When FEMA launched a $2 billion program to pay three months of upfront rental costs for homeowners or renters whose residences were destroyed by Katrina, the money had to come from some where.  In order to accomplish it, Congress opened up funding from various grant programs so that the states could get involved in applying for aid to serve their own states.  The policy enabled eligible victims to receive $2,358 per family to rent anywhere in the country, and victims could continue to get assistance for up to 18 months as FEMA works with state and local authorities to rebuild the devastated communities (Associated Press, 2006).Labor Secretary Chao and Education Secretary Spellings have been busy putting a plan into action to alleviate the effects of the Katrina disaster on employment and performance.During a briefing with reporters after the meeting, the secretaries said they would seek legislative changes giving them flexibility to meet the education and employment needs of victims and others affected by the storm.  Spellings said one change she would seek would remove the requirement under the Davis-Bacon Act that students attend school in the district where they are living member. George Miller, D-Calif., sharply criticized the decision to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act.Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans also introduced a bill that would loosen the rules governing the Labor Department’s National Emergency Grant program.  This program offers employment and training for as long as six months to people who participate in projects providing assistance to disaster victims.  The bill would expand eligibility for the program and the kind of work that beneficiaries could perform (Heil, 2005).Overall, the policy changes enacted to provide relief to victims of the Katrina disaster have been effective.   Those who have achieved the most success include those individuals who have chosen to relocate to other states, where funding sources are more readily available.  As a result of natural disasters, many victims give up on the local job search and relocate.  Leo Ivory’s three-year unemployment streak ended in Beaumont when the lifelong New Orleans resident left Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina.Ivory is among more than 500 local survivors of Hurricane Katrina and Rita who are clearing debris, helping out with extra office duties and filling in wherever needed at public offices through a national grant program, where individuals in need of employment are paid for up to six months as they help in the rebuilding efforts as they seek steady work.  Ivory has driven a dump truck, worked with heavy machinery, and broken down and reassembled metal buildings since starting work in October.Throughout the state of Texas, 1,342 people have the temporary jobs, said Ann Hatchitt, Texas Workforce Commission deputy communications director.Yolanda Berry is another example of an individual who has had to relocate to achieve some financial support.  In New Orleans, she worked as a social worker.  She was shocked when she realized her unemployment transaction assistance wouldn’t pay the bills.  Like Ivory, she relocated to the Beaumont area under the Texas Workforce Center.  She is currently doing clerical work for the Beaumont Independent School District while looking for something in Social Work (Macias, 2006).It is important to note, in analyzing the policies enabling Katrina victims to climb their way back out of poverty that money and resources will eventually run out.  The two billion dollars that was originally allocated by FEMA to provide housing relief was a temporary fix to a longer-term problem.  As a result, government and policy makers need to spend time seeking ways to provide a permanent fix to the problem.  In order to do this, they should spend some time talking with the Social Workers and other front line service representatives who work directly with the people in order to best determine the needs and wants of the victims of natural disasters.

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