News


Focus on voting, rebuilding, and growing

October 25, 2016

Hello Michael,

As we approach November, we say good-bye to President Barack Obama and congratulate him on his eight years of service and his work seeing about the needs of our low and moderate income and disadvantaged constituency. In November, we must again focus on the presidential election, making sure we replace him with someone that is sensitive to our needs and can continue making progress on asset policy. Remember, another Supreme Court Justice will need to be appointed during this next presidential term. This will make a tremendous difference in how our laws are interpreted. Please get out and vote and get others to do the same. This issue of the SRABC Gazette highlights our partners in Louisiana as they rebuild after the Great Flood and celebrates our Florida partners who are helping small farmers grow and plan for generational wealth. Enjoy.

Mike Milner, SRABC Executive Director


Struggles continue months after devastating flooding

“When you're not prepared financially you will be impacted the greatest,” said Joyce James, State Director, Louisiana Building Economic Security Together (LABEST), following the Great Flood that saturated South Louisiana on August 10.

The state experienced three days of rain that caused massive flooding in 11 parishes. More than 90 days later, piles of debris and rubbish line streets—some as high as the homes behind them—as cleanup and repairs move at a snail's pace. Thirteen people died in the disaster and upwards of 100,000 homes were damaged. Much like in other neighborhoods across East Baton Rouge Parish and in nearby cities, both sides of the streets are lined with damaged cars, debris and molding mountains of rubbish. Two months later, families are still cleaning out their homes.

According to Darryl Kilbert, LaBEST Development Coordinator, research bears witness that:

  • Natural disasters disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color.
  • People of color and residents in low-income communities bear the brunt of environmental risks that negatively affect their health—because of the proximity of toxic facilities near residential areas, runoff from waste, poor air quality, a lack of green spaces and a host of factors that stack the deck against them.
  • “It is estimated that it will take at least a year for the city to return to a sense of normalcy,” James says. “My fear is that this new normal will not be for those in low income communities. We have a lot of work to do.”

Louisiana is expected to receive more than $56 million dollars from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in federal support to assist with uninsured and underinsured flood-related losses. The U.S. Department of Transportation also made $2 million in emergency relief funds immediately available through the Federal Highway Administration to help repair roads and bridges in the affected areas, while $10.5 million in advance payments were approved through the National Flood Insurance Program.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to provide low to moderate-income households who do not already receive supplemental assistance with buying groceries following a disaster. Support continues to come from the Small Business Administration, immediately made available $3.5 million in low interest loans to small businesses. In the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes EBR and eight surrounding parishes, 12,000 businesses were impacted which is nearly 35% of all businesses in the region. More than 136,000 workers that have been affected because of the flooding. In East Baton Rouge alone, eight schools were relocated or closed for this school year due to irreparable flood damage. On October 8, the last families were being evacuated from Baton Rouge shelters and moved into temporary housing like area hotels.

To assist LABEST with relief and support efforts in Louisiana, email jjlabest@gmail.com.



From Seed to Sale

LOCAL RESOURCES GIVE FARMERS LEVERAGE

Calvin and Caria Hawkins are partners in marriage and in business. As owners of Abundant Harvest Farms they have been successful farmers in Glen Saint Mary, Florida. The 38-acre sustainable farm in rural North Florida grows organic vegetables, fruits, and pecans. Since 2014, the couple has taken their produce from seed to sale. But, after enrolling in Wealth Watchers Inc.’s Comprehensive Rural Opportunities Program (CROP), the Hawkins received additional resources totake their farm to the next level.
“Wealth Watchers has gone the extra mile to make sure resources, tools and equipment are in place for out farm to be competitive and successful,” says Caria Hawkins. “We wish we had been connected to Wealth Watchers in 2014.”

The Wealth Watchers Inc. team introduced the couple to personal budgeting, credit counseling, mortgage assistance, small business finance and other programs specific to their needs. A review of the farm’s organizational documents concluded that a custom micro loan was preferable versus a traditional small business loan. Wealth Watchers Inc. also helped the Hawkins identify a contractor for the project, Boots on the Ground Construction, who provided construction training as well.
Abundant Harvest now has a seasonal high tunnel, affectionately known as a hoop house because of its design thanks to the financial coaching and a micro business loan. With the hoop house, Abundant Harvest will extend its tomato growing season and thus increase earnings.

“We’ll be able to make a real go at growing sustainable, natural crops with the help of Wealth Watchers,” says Calvin Hawkins.

“This program is one of the ways we guide and prepare business owners, specifically, and families, in general, to become economically sufficient,” says Carrie Davis, Wealth Watchers President. "We are proud of the Hawkins and their growing farm business."
Wealth Watchers Inc is a NeighborWorks network member based in Jacksonville, Florida. The CROP is an initiative that coordinates outreach, technical assistance and education to better reach rural farmers and ranchers in Florida and Georgia, particularly those who are socially disadvantaged. For more information, visit www.wealthwatchersfl.com.

> By Edward Gaston, Florida RISE

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