HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan pledges to rebuild tornado ravaged Alabama ‘better and stronger’

Touring Rosedale Court are (front row) U. S Congresswoman Terri Sewell and U. S. Senator Richard Shelby. In the second row are Jim Bayard, State of Alabama HUD Director and Shaun Donovan, HUD Secretary

By: John Zippert,

Standing on the ruins of Rosedale Courts, public housing project in Tuscaloosa, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, pledged to rebuild Tuscaloosa and other storm affected communities in the state “better and stronger than they were before the tornados on April 15 and 27.
At a press conference after a tour of the devastation where 100 out of 188 units were destroyed and 11 people died, Donovan joined by other political leaders said over $12 million dollars in HUD Community Development Block Grant funds could be used in a flexible way to respond to the needs to rebuild community facilities and the basic housing stock in the state.
Donovan said funds were available to the state and municipalities from the Section 108 loan program against future CDBG funding. There is also emergency housing assistance from FEMA and mobile homes which will be brought in by state and Federal emergency management officials to house persons temporarily for up to 18 months whose homes were totaled by the fierce tornados.
When pressed by this reporter, Secretary Donovan said, “the government is concerned about every person and family in the area; those that live in cities like Tuscaloosa and also those who live in the surrounding rural communities, like Sawyerville, Tishabee Snoddy, Vienna, Lisman.
Mayor Maddox of Tuscaloosa said that the state and Federal government needed to be commended for coming together rapidly to work on solutions. Senator Richard Shelby said, “ you will be judged in this tornado relief effort by what you do. We welcome your presence and that of President Obama. We hope these visits will serve the purpose and help stir things up in the bureaucracy to get assistance to the people of Alabama.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, whose district from Birmingham to the Black Belt has been impacted by the tornados said “ I am inspired by the generosity of people helping people in the aftermath of these storms. I promise you that the low income and rural people of the district will not be forgotten.”
Ralph Paige from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives said, “ reflecting on Hurricane Katrina, we still have 400 people in south Mobile County that qualified for CDBG housing assistance but have never received it and are still waiting for it. I hope people in Tuscaloosa and the Black Belt will receive the assistance they need on a timely basis to rebuild their homes. We may need to ask Congress for special funding to cover these disaster needs.”
At the press conference, FEMA reported that 45,000 people had registered statewide to get assistance; 12,000 home inspections have been carried out; 300 displaced people are still living in shelters, while the rest have moved in with relatives, friends or neighbors; and some are living in hotels.


West Alabama hit by high winds, heavy rain and more expected

In the late night hours of April 26 and early morning of April 27, strong tornadic winds and heavy rain pelted West Alabama, downing trees, limbs and power lines.
Many people were without elecricity for several hours at a stretch.
The picture to the right was taken early Wednesday morning on Mesopotamia Street in Eutaw, where the power pole was cracked and the lines were completely down. The tree pictured was literally uprooted by the heavy winds.
According to the National Weather Service, wind up to 100 miles per hour kocked out power in approximately 263,000 homes and businesses throughout Alabama, and more severe weather was expected later in the day on Wednesday.
Thursday, however, is expected to be sunny and clear
On April 22, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) issued the following statement after being notified that Alabama’s request for a major federal disaster declaration was denied by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate on behalf of President Barack Obama. The federal disaster declaration request was made earlier this week by Governor Bentley, following deadly storms and tornadoes that ripped through the state on April 15.
“I am very disappointed in FEMA’s decision to deny federal disaster assistance to Alabama and to the victims of the deadly storms that ripped through our state last week.
While I greatly appreciate the efforts of FEMA officials currently working in Alabama and assessing the extent of the damage, I had strongly hoped that the federal government would offer assistance to our state and local governments and to the storm’s victims as they grapple with their losses.
“This decision places additional burdens and worries upon already hurting families and ignores the enormous costs to our state and local governments that are already struggling. I commend the efforts of the state and local governments as well as faith-based and non-profit community organizations who quickly mobilized to provide assistance to victims following this tragedy.
“My office will continue to work with state and local officials and non-profit organizations to ensure that we are doing all we can to get people the resources and assistance they need to rebuild their communities after these storms.”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell named to House Agriculture Committee

Congresswoman Terri Sewell
Congresswomen Terri Sewell, from the Alabama 7th District was named to a position on the House Agriculture Committee today by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the Ranking Minority member of the committee.
Sewell who was elected to the Congressional seat held by Artur Davis in November 2010 joins the committee from a district that has taken leadership in the past on issues of importance to African-American farm producers.
In addition to the Agriculture Committee, Sewell was named to the Committee on Science and Technology.
Sewell joins Rep. David Scott of Atlanta and Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio as the third Congressional Black Caucus member on the House Agriculture Committee. There are four members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) also assigned to the committee.
In 2007-8, these two Caucuses led the successful effort to include more than 30 provisions that made the 2008 Farm Bill more equitable for all producers. Among those provisions were: allowing “late filers” in the Pigford Black Farmer class action lawsuit an opportunity to have their claims heard and addressed; mandating funding of outreach programs and supporting set asides of credit, conservation and other programs for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Peterson said, “The Agriculture Committee oversees a wide range of issues, including farm programs, nutrition programs, crop insurance, renewable energy, conservation, commodity markets and rural development. These members bring a great deal of expertise and a commitment to addressing the challenges of those who live, work and raise their families in rural America. I look forward to working with them, along with the new majority, in this Congress.”
The Democratic Caucus today named 20 Democrats, including 13 returning members and seven new members, to the House Agriculture Committee.
The Democratic members on the committee are: Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota;Tim Holden, Pennsylvania; Mike McIntyre, North Carolina; Leonard Boswell, Iowa; Joe Baca, California; Dennis Cardoza, California; David Scott, Georgia; Henry Cuellar, Texas; Jim Costa, California; Timothy J. Walz, Minnesota; Kurt Schrader, Oregon; Larry Kissell, North Carolina; Bill Owens, New York; Chellie Pingree, Maine; Joe Courtney, Connecticut; Peter Welch, Vermont; Marcia L. Fudge, Ohio; Gregorio Sablan, Northern Mariana Islands; Terri A. Sewell, Alabama; and James McGovern, Massachusetts.
Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma named six members to serve as Subcommittee Chairmen of the House Agriculture Commitee and also released the complete Republican roster for the 112th Congress.
“Our Subcommittee Chairmen have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the success of American agriculture and rural economies. They are ready to join me in addressing the challenges that farmers, ranchers, and small businesses face across rural America. The next year will be an exercise in educating our freshmen members on both sides of the aisle, providing oversight of the administration, and building a strong working relationship as we prepare to reauthorize the farm bill in 2012,” said Lucas.
Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee are:
Frank D. Lucas (OK), Chairman; Bob Goodlatte (VA), Vice Chairman; Timothy V. Johnson (IL); Steve King (IA); Randy Neugebauer (TX); K. Michael Conaway (TX); Jeff Fortenberry (NE); Jean Schmidt (OH); Glenn Thompson (PA); Tom Rooney (FL); Rick Crawford (AR); Scott DesJarlais (TN); Renee Elmers (NC); Stephen Fincher (TN); Bob Gibbs (OH); Chris Gibson (NY); Vicky Hartzler (MO); Tim Huelskamp (KS); Randy Hultgren (IL); Reid Ribble (WI); Martha Roby (AL); Bobby Schilling (IL); Austin Scott (GA); Steve Southerland (FL); Marlin Stutzman (IN);