Three conferences withdraw Katrina funding request


NEW YORK (UMNS) - A United Methodist regional group that had successfully applied for federal funding for long-term recovery activity after Hurricane Katrina has withdrawn its request.

Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi annual conferences, regional units of the United Methodist Church, had jointly applied for partnership in Katrina Aid Today, a national consortium led by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. About $3 million originally awarded to the three will be redistributed among the remaining nine consortium members.

Katrina Aid Today is working to help families in 30 states identify and find solutions to their major post-hurricane problems. It is monitored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency using donations from the international community. The program is funded with a $66 million grant for use over a two-year period.

UMCOR, a unit of the General Board of Global Ministries, was named manager of the consortium in October.

The decision by the three annual conferences to withdraw from the consortium was guided by two factors, according to the Rev. Kristin L. Sachen, head of UMCOR's emergency services office. As grant contracts were being developed, it became apparent that sufficient funding would be available from private United Methodist sources to support all the work proposed by the three annual conferences. Also, private funding allows more flexibility in the design and implementation of a project.

When UMCOR is the source of grant funding, it can work collaboratively with its conference partners in developing a program of services that fits that conference's capacity and priorities. Federal funding requirements are more rigid.

More than $62 million was contributed in 2005 to UMCOR for hurricane relief and rehabilitation in the United States and wider Gulf of Mexico region. "UMCOR has responded 100 percent to the emergency relief and rehabilitation start-up requests made by the annual conferences, with over $6 million expended to date. Our rehabilitation efforts will likely cover a four-year period,” said Paul Dirdak, the executive in charge of UMCOR for GBGM.