President William J. Clinton: Good morning. I am joined today by a number of partners in this endeavor and I want to acknowledge them. Maude Hurd, the President of ACORN, a community organization with which I am long familiar. It started in Little Rock, Arkansas when I was young man just starting out in politics. And they are very active here in New York and across the country. I thank them for their involvement.
My friend, the Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, John Bryant, who is doing amazing work around this country and I'm very proud of what he's done. The Chairman and CEO of H&R Block, Mark Ernst, who is an essential part of this endeavor we are doing today. Arlen Gelbard, the President of E-Trade bank, Roberta Kotkin, the COO of New York Bankers Association, Lionel Savage, the Vice President of First America Corporation, Robyn Brady Ince, Vice President of Deutsche Bank, Linda Zecher, the Vice President of Microsoft, who is very important in providing the software for the work we're announcing, Donna Cohen Ross from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
I'd like to thank all of them as well as some families who are represented here today from New Orleans and other places affected by Hurricane Katrina. And I say raise your hands to everybody here who has - thank you for being here.
Today we are here to announce a project with all these partners and my foundation to make more Americans aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to take advantage of it and to help them file for it. Working with ACORN and Operation HOPE, we'll reach out to Americans eligible for the EITC, help them to claim it and ensure they have the financial literacy training and support they need to make the most of the money that they have earned.
The EITC is an important program that still, after all these years, not enough people know about or know how to take advantage of. It provides a tax cut and in effect a pay raise to millions of moderate and low income workers. Even workers without any tax liability at all can claim the EITC and get cash back, but they have to file for it.
This year workers and their families with an income of less than $35,000 or joint filers with an income of under $37,000 can receive money back, depending on how many children they have, as much as $4,400. That's a huge amount of money. And single mothers working for just above the minimum wage with a couple of kids can get several thousand dollars back. This is profoundly important.
I also want to emphasize however, and this is something a lot of people don't know, moderate income workers who don't have children may be eligible for the EITC. And while their refund will be lower, still for a lot of people with very modest incomes, four or five hundred dollars is a lot of money. It could make an enormous amount of difference.
The EITC is not a give away. It goes to working people. And it allows them to keep more of the income they have already earned. In 2004, more than 21 million Americans claimed more than $39 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit. Unfortunately in the same year about $13 billion went unclaimed. In other words, about 25% of the money went unclaimed and nearly one in four EITC eligible taxpayers still did not claim it. We want to change that. And we want to change that especially for the people who were affected by Hurricane Katrina.
When I was President, we doubled the Earned Income Tax Credit. It gave more than 15 million working families a tax cut and in 1998 alone lifted over 4 million people out of poverty, including over 2 million kids.
And I want to emphasize this because most Americans don't know it. The majority of people that live in this country who live in poverty live in working families. And nobody who works full time and has children in their home should be in poverty. And that's what the EITC was designed to do.
This is a profoundly important point, because you still have to file for this and that means we are leaving millions of people in poverty who have the power to lift themselves out of poverty by filling out a form.
Now, why is this particularly important in the Katrina area? First of all because we all know that along the Gulf Coast there were a disproportionate number of people -- White, African American, Latino and Asian -- who are working and did work, who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. And we know there are a lot of people who don't apply. New Orleans alone I think has the second highest percentage of its residents pre-Katrina who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit of any major city in the United States.
This bill was first signed into law - it was passed by a Democratic Congress but signed into law by President Gerald Ford. Ronald Reagan said it was the best anti-poverty and pro-family and job creation measure to come out of the Congress. It has always enjoyed broad bipartisan support, support from the political spectrum from liberals to conservatives, because it's pro-work and pro-family. But for people who aren't used to dealing with government forms and for people who don't have permanent accountants, they often don't even know it exists.
Now here is the important part about Katrina. If you are living - let's just say you were living in Gulfport Mississippi and you were a single mother and you had an income of $12,000 last year and two kids, you could file and get, I think, around $4000 in the Earned Income Tax Credit. That's a huge percentage of increase in your income.
If because of Katrina you missed a couple months of work and your income dropped to $9000, under the way the law works, you'd actually lose money in the size of the EITC you could get. Under a law passed by Congress, thank goodness, you can still ask for the full amount going back to 2004.
On the other hand, if you're on the up end of the scale, let's suppose last year you made $38,000 and you've got four kids in the house, you weren't eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. But if you list the last four months of work, your income this year might have been closer to $30,000. So you can use the 2005 income and apply.
This is very important. There are people all over the Katrina area who missed somewhere between two and a half and four months of payroll. And that might have made them eligible. And that's where a lot of our other partners come in. The point is, one reason we're emphasizing the Katrina area is, not only do these people need cash to support their daily living, but this could give them a nest egg on which they can begin again. And that's important too.
So, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the effect of poverty in a particularly devastating way. People stayed in their houses as the waters rose in part because they were waiting for a check to arrive at the first of the month. Some stayed in their houses because they had no savings account and every last thing they owned was in the house or was the car in the front yard.
I'll never forget I actually watched somebody interviewed who lived in the lower land portion of New Orleans who said ‘I just hated to leav e because I own nothing except that old car and this house. It's all I have. I have no money in the bank. I have no other assets.’
The efforts that we announce today will help Katrina survivors claim the EITC that they have earned. We also want to provide the tools to help them make the most of their money to help them decide whether they need it just to continue to make expenses or whether this could be saved.
For example, if the bill now pending in Congress sponsored by Congressman Baker of Louisiana and Senator Landrieu in the Senate, with a whole lot of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, if that passes and the government finds a way to buy up all this land and clean it up and then offer it back to the owner at a modest amount, then the people who own the land still have to have some money in the bank to buy the land to start again. The Earned Income Tax Credit could help that.
Yes, there will be money coming to the government to give to low income people, but we need more. So it's important that we not only get this money, but for the Katrina survivors, help people make an informed choice about what their options are to spend it, what is the best way to spend it. So I'm very grateful that all these other folks are helping us on that.
You can find out about how to claim the EITC and file your taxes for free on our foundation's Web site. It's clintonfoundation.org. We explain how the EITC works and how to claim it in English and in Spanish, in great detail. And it's a user friendly effort. I'd like to thank the people who have helped us with it and John Normoyle in my office at clintonfoundation.org. I hope we'll have a lot of people hit it.
Working with ACORN's Katrina Benefits Access Project, we will deploy mobile units in ten cities either in the Hurricane Katrina affected region or where there are large numbers of Katrina evacuees. And we'll have the list of the cities for the press. For example we'll have one in Houston, we'll have one in Little Rock, and we’ll have one in other areas where there are lots and lots of people who were affected there.
These units will screen clients with Earned Income Tax Credit and other federal benefits for which they might be eligible and they will provide free tax preparation so that people can apply for it without cost. They will go to hotels, apartment complexes, FEMA relief sites, disaster assistance centers and other places where survivors are living.
We will also be working with Operation HOPE’s Project Restore Hope to incorporate EITC outreach and pre-tax filing services into their comprehensive economic counseling and financial literacy services, helping Hurricane Katrina victims around the United States to get back on their feet.
We’re also going to work closely with 200 families in the Forest Hills Community of Gulf Port, Mississippi. I visited there last fall. In the 1970s, many of those families were helped to buy a home by a good friend of mine, who’s nearly 90 years old now, Dr. Dorothy Height and the National Council of Negro Women. Many of these people actually finally paid off their mortgages completely just before Katrina struck and they had 30-year mortgages.
So combining the EITC with financial literacy and compassionate case management will help to ensure that folks like them will be able to use the EITC not only to have cash in their pockets, but some needed startup capital to help begin again.
I want to thank the financial services companies who’ve made commitments to support Project Restore Hope; companies like Deutsche Bank, E*Trade Financial, H&R Block, and the First American Corporation have submitted more than 1,500 volunteers with a background in financial services.
The New York Bankers Association has agreed to urge its 175 members to get their employees to support our work and I thank them. We have a lot of people in New York in areas like Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, who are eligible but who still don’t apply and we’ve been working here since I moved up here.
I want to thank Microsoft for their time and talent. They’ve enabled Project Restore Hope volunteers to use a virtual case management system from their homes or offices to serve clients so that a lot of this work can be done over the Internet.
And I want to say a special word of thanks to H&R Block. In addition to their volunteers, H&R Block has agreed to provide additional support to Project Restore Hope with free tax preparation and EITC filing to 5,000 clients as well as unlimited free EITC filing and IRA inflated accounts for their clients as well. So thank you very much.
Our foundation staff in Boston, Little Rock, and New York is going to volunteer with local outreach programs in the communities and Harlem where more than $2.7 million in EITC went unclaimed in 2003. We will help a center run by a food chain that was I believe the most successful pre-tax preparer in the country last year.
Finally, let me say again, our Website, clintonfoundation.org has an EITC resource center that will help the people to find out if they’re eligible and how to claim their benefits.
And now I want to ask some other folks to speak, beginning with the President of ACORN Maude Hurd. Thank you very much.
Maude Hurd: Good morning.
All: Good morning.
Maude Hurd: I am so glad to see so many of the Katrina survivors here this morning. I’ve been talking to them over the phone for the last few months and it really is a pleasure to see people here this morning. Thank you for being here. Thank all of you.
I’ll talk mostly about the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit gives low-income people in our communities what they need most and that’s the resources to take care of themselves and their families. But too many of our families in our communities are not even aware that the EITC is there or the law side on these benefits, they’re losing out and they don’t even know it.
This year, Katrina survivors are in a special need, both for good information about the EITC and other governmental programs that can help them rebuild their lives. We are extremely pleased that we can work with the Clinton Foundation to help displaced families across this country.
Over the last five years, ACORN has been a national leader in the grassroots education efforts targeting EITC eligible taxpayers. Last year, ACORN tax preparation centers helped families claim more than $9.5 million in EITC. Since Hurricane Katrina, ACORN has organized Katrina survivors nationwide.
This year, ACORN is working with the Clinton Foundation on ACORN Katrina benefits assets per access program. We will educate the Katrina survivors about EITC, we help them file their taxes and claim the EITC, and determine what other states and Federal programs or benefits they might be eligible for.
ACORN’s outreach staff will seek out Katrina survivors in hotels, as President Clinton mentioned, and shelters, apartment communities, disaster centers, churches, and wherever we can find them. We’ll let them know about the tax credit at our tax preparation centers.
We will use our mobile units to provide on-the-spot tax preparation and benefit screening to better serve the special needs of hurricane survivors.
Now the ten cities that were mentioned earlier that ACORN is targeting -- Birmingham, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Lake Charles, Louisiana; New Orleans, Louisiana; Dallas, Texas; Houston, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas. Those are the ten cities that we are targeting right now.
Our staff will be trained to help provide information and tax preparation. In some cases, the IRS has special assistance sites to help hurricane survivors. We will help direct people to these sites.
The mobile units will sometimes operate out of ACORN. We have our own mobile unit action centers in a van but th ey are mobile unit action centers. Other times, it will be trained - training taxpayers with computers and these computers will be set up with software and wireless Internet .We go where we have to go.
Since 2004, ACORN has partnered with the IRS volunteers income tax preparation programs who run tax preparation centers. Last year, we ran tax preparation centers in 43 cities and we filed tax returns for nearly 16,000 low income families and helped them claim more than $9.5 million in the EITC.
This year, we will run centers in 75 cities. We are also beginning to run our benefit screening centers to help people figure out what State and Federal assistance programs they may be eligible for.
Now the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act -- KETRA Efforts affect both Katrina survivors as well as other taxpayers that house the survivors and those who may have contributed the (funds) to the general relief efforts.
As part of our work through the Clinton Grant Program, we will talk to survivors on tax issues that effect them as a result of the hurricane (including) creating substitute W-2s and 1090 forms, we will calculate EITC from - for 2005 based on prior year tax return, and we’re going to be filing amendments and delinquent returns for the survivors.
So we’re going to be busy and just keep our eye out for us because we are there. Thank you.
Mark Ernst: All right. Good morning.
All: Good morning.
Mark Ernst: I am honored and humbled to be here with President Clinton as well as two of our national partners H&R Block, John Bryant with Operation Hope and Maude Hurd with ACORN. We have a very productive national partnership with both organizations trying to make a difference in our country.
The devastation of the hurricanes made all Americans aware of the fragility of life. I think that at first that fragility was really physical, but later we all saw that the fragility also extended financially. And I was very impressed; we were all very impressed, that the immediate outpouring showed that we as Americans really cared about helping.
But I’m afraid that five months can dull the memory and we have to not let this diminish our memory and our commitment to helping those people who have been affected by this loss.
So far, a lot of the most significant provisions that are now available to help financially are in the form of special tax provisions. H&R Block has a lot of information on those provisions for both the effected individuals as well as those people who have been supportive at our website, hrblock.com, and we have provided significant extensive additional training to our tax professionals around the country knowing that there are people who have been effected by this disaster who are now all over the United States. So we’ve provided special training so that we can do what is necessary to help everybody get all the benefits they have available.
Taxes are just one of the many financial complications. Poor financial literacy is another one that many people struggle with, and that’s why we’ve been proud to partner with Operation HOPE’s Project Restore Hope. And in that forum we are providing both financial support, as well as 500 HR Block volunteers around the United States to help reach out and help people understand what they can do to put themselves back on their feet.
To provide holistic support for the hurricane victim’s financial needs is something that is very critical at this time as people try to get back on their feet.
The problem is that we can see that more needs to be done. We’re now just a couple weeks into the tax filing season. And one of the things that is becoming very apparent to us in the industry is that many of the people who qualify for benefits related to the earned income credit and in particular people who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina and qualify for special benefits, are not out there claiming those benefits. That is already showing up in the information or the data and I think that this outreach is absolutely critical.
The key source of that support as many people know is in the form of the earned income credit. Yes, we know that one in four people don’t claim the earned income credit in a good year. And in a complicated challenging year like this, it is all the more important that we not let those individuals who qualify miss out on what’s available to them.
That’s why we are pleased to be announcing that in addition to the free online services that we provide to filers at IRS.gov, we will also, starting March 1st, provide free tax preparation for 5000 hurricane effected families who qualify for the earned income credit.
We are also planning to help any family that’s been affected by the hurricane beyond that 5000, help them claim the earned income credit for no additional cost at H&R Block so that they can get all the benefits that they have coming to them. And to reach those families, we are working with Operation Hope, Restore Hope Program to identify the qualifying families around the country to ensure that they get not just the full benefit of this, but also all the kind of financial counseling that they need in this time of trying to get themselves back on their feet.
One of the key challenges for people in receiving the earned income credit is that too many Americans don’t have access to the traditional banking system.
So today we will also announce that we are providing at no additional cost, access to no-cost bank accounts to those hurricane victims who will need them to receive their tax refund.
And we will actively discourage those families from receiving refund loans to avoid losing any benefits that they have coming to them.
The hurricanes were a very personal tragedy for too many people, millions of people. And we need to not just help them rebuild their homes, we also know that we need to help them rebuild hope, hope for a new and better financial life, a better life and hope to get their financial lives back on track.
We at H&R Block are pleased that we can share in helping to make a difference at this time, not just for all of our other clients, but for those in particular who have been affected by this hurricane.
John Bryant: I want to keep this brief. PhDs are good. Ph.Dos are even better. Today I’d like to first and foremost thank the Clinton Foundation staff that stayed up all night for two weeks every night to make this happen. But most importantly, the most credible PhD and Ph.Doer in this room, President Bill Clinton.
I don’t know if it connected with you what Mark just said, but let me frame this: You have 70 million Americans or thereabouts with no back account in this country. The richest country in the world, and you had Katrina victims being approached by a FEMA rep saying, ‘Where do I wire your $2000 in FEMA funds’ to somebody who doesn’t have a bank account.
The person was well-intentioned. The rep was well intentioned, but didn’t realize we live in two worlds. And these individuals don’t want a hand out, they want a hand up. But it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that is killing them. You’re not dumb and you’re not stupid. It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that’s killing you.
There’s not a welfare mother in this country in her right mind that does not want her child to grow up to be successful, intelligent, hardworking, and tax paying for no other reason than to feel proud of them. But you can’t give what you don’t have.
Today is about helping people do better by giving them the ultimate poverty eradication tool called education. So I’m proud. It takes President Clinton to bring ACORN, Operation Hope, H&R Block, E-Trade Financial, Microsoft, Deutsche Bank, First American Corporation -- all these players to get them all in one room. I think that’s what you call leadership.
A nd I might add, Clear Channel outdoor announced yesterday they’re going to add several hundred thousand dollars to this by doing free ads with President Clinton promoting this all around the country all year.
Our goals - that’s for the folks, the victims. If you want to volunteer and you want to join President Clinton’s Silver Rights Army here, Silver Rights, not Civil Rights, to help people help themselves, you can go to operationhope.org to sign up to be a volunteer.
Today we have 1500 bankers who signed up because of President Clinton. We want to get to 5000. Now if you’re a victim who wants to get this service, you call 888-388-HOPE, we will make sure you get a bank account. We will also make sure that you get the EITC services you provided. You heard that with ACORN on the ground and with E*Trade, we should be able to cover a great deal of ground here. And the first 5000 individuals will get a free tax filing and EITC support.
And I think it’s about 40% of New Orleans -- a little under that -- were eligible for EITC in New Orleans. So we’re talking about people who have in effect their own socials and venture capital funds that’s already there. Be clear on this. This is not about a handout. This is their right. They earned it. They worked for it. And all you got to do is claim it.
And once you do that and you combine the financial literacy work with the case management work to make sure that once you get the money you don’t go shopping. That you take that money and invest it back in your life to restart your life and make sure that after this storm we have a rainbow. You cannot have a rainbow without a storm first.
So in summary, we at Operation HOPE educated 170,000 children in financial literacy. We’ve worked with President Clinton here in Harlem to teach financial literacy. We will now educate Katrina families, working hopefully closely with you for free in financial literacy starting with the children to make sure this does not happen again because there are economic levies ready to break all around this country as we go forward.
Number two, Fred Smith, the Head of Hope Coalition America will be in the charge of the volunteers. And we will help people all around this country for free to restructure their payment agreements, to defer payments on mortgages and loans, to give you budget counseling and credit counseling to give you a hand up and not a hand out. Because when you know better, we know you want to do better.
And finally, we will help Dr. Height in Gulf Port, Mississippi. We’re going to put banks through the Clinton Foundation, two staff people full-time on the ground in Gulf Port. And we’re going to help every one of those 200 families. And E*Trade’s already put up $60,000 in a grant to help those families, $2000 each to help them get between the underinsurance they didn’t get, the FEMA money that ran out. And I think with that money plus the EITC money plus the 100 volunteers from them, the 200 volunteers from First American, the 50 volunteers from Deutsche Bank, the 500 volunteers from HR Block, we can do this. Thank you.
President William J. Clinton: The first time I ever did anything with John, he was illustrating to school children that they didn’t know what a check was. This country’s quite blessed to have you and all of you in Operation HOPE. Any questions from the press or the public? Yes sir?
Man: Yes, my question is for those individuals or families who have come to the rescue of the victims while adopting them and helping them with resources, how do they become eligible for the (unintelligible)? And…
President William J. Clinton: Can somebody else answer that? Go ahead.
Man: Those families that have graciously brought Katrina victims into their homes qualify for a special tax exemption this year of $500. It is a special provision just for this event. It does not qualify them for the earned income credit, but it does give them some support and acknowledgement of what they’ve done to support the families in this time.
President William J. Clinton: The earned income tax credit still depends upon whether you’re within the income limit. But as I said, the way the law is written now, a lower income person down near the bottom of the earned income tax limit who would get a bigger credit by filing on last year’s - 2004 income and 2005 can do that. Someone who’s at the upper range who was brought under the limit only because they’re out of work for a couple of months can file on their 2005 income.
If you spent money out of your pocket, you have to do it in this way. But this is really important because otherwise, you can only get charitable deductions by spending the money on a company that’s a recognized tax exempt group. So this is huge deal that Congress did. It’s a very good thing. Because otherwise these folks get no help.
And if you get $500 back off your tax bill, that’s the equivalent of spending more depending on what your tax rate is.
Yes ma’am in the back?
Maude Hurd: (Unintelligible).
President William J. Clinton: Well let me say I believe I wish I didn’t have to answer this way, but I believe it’s always been (unintelligible). Now when we first did it, when we first doubled it and made big numbers of people eligible for it, the then Secretary of the Treasury Lord Benson, sent a notice to every tax payer in America that had previously filed. And we tried to explain what this was.
I told somebody that we should have changed the name of it when we doubled it because it sounds like a (EITC) sounds like some code. So it’s kind of like hard to crack. But it’s always been pretty high. And I periodically did things when I was President, tried to emphasize it and publicize it and tried to use the government to get more access.
But ironically I think this may be because of Katrina, the highest visibility that this effort has ever achieved. And we’re getting all these - like today while we’re here, there are all kinds of media outlets in the Katrina area who are participating in this event by listening in and being part of reporting it. So I hope we can do better.
And I would hope that the IRS -- that’s what the Bush Administration would do -- it would be that with the IRS that they’re doing this in New Orleans particularly. I talked to the Mayor of New Orleans late last night and he said he wanted to use city offices there to try to help more.
But we can cover all these places, we can make a big difference. And as I said, it’s not just in the Katrina area. There’s an unbelievable number of people in New York who are eligible for this and not just in Harlem but we leave $3 million on the ground you can imagine how much we’re leaving in Brooklyn and the Bronx much bigger. The rest of Manhattan and Staten Island, Queens, you know, got a lot of people everywhere for this help. That’s my answer to you.
I don’t know what the government is doing. I know that we can make a big difference here. I know we’re going to have more publicity on this effort than at any time maybe since we first did it in ’93.
So that’s what I – and I hope that at least in the Katrina area if we can get people who desperately need it.
Yes sir and then this gentleman, go ahead.
President William J. Clinton: Well I think anything will help them but I think that the most important thing is that the Congress passed a pretty good law. And the problem with all of these laws if they benefit lower income working people they benefit people who don’t either have, like I do, you know, I never have to think about any of these.
That’s a terrible thing. If you’re an upper income person you higher an Accountant and you get your tax cuts. If you’re a poor person without an Accountan t, even though your tax cut is a big percentage of your income, the bigger percentage of your income maybe, and make the difference on how your kids live for the next year, you’ve got to know something you’re not necessarily going to know.
So you may be right about all of this but you know what I’m focused on is what I can do something about. I’m not in public life anymore. I don’t control what Congress or the White House does or what goes on in the State Capitols. I think there will be an exceptional effort in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to help those people.
And there all kinds of problems, you know, because now you’ve got all these people who were supposed to file taxes in those states who are living in other states. You know about once a week I meet somebody in New York who’s a Katrina victim.
So I think that -- my instinct is that the states will be doing a lot on this but I don’t know that. All I’m doing is what I can do and I’m going to enlist every state and local government I can to help. Yes, (John).
(John): He’s so humble on what he can do. Let me tell you what else he can do, what else he did.
Microsoft will have to leave in a moment but I want to tell you because of the President’s leadership additionally, Microsoft—and didn’t mean to slip any publicity to this but let me just say this—they stepped up, put up a quarter of a million of cash and their talent and built for us a custom Economic Online Case Management Software. That’ll be a banker in New York, Texas, Atlanta, anywhere in this country. You’re a CPA and investor you want to give your time and talent. You want to do something else than give blood, you can now become a virtual volunteer and sit at your desk and help a Katrina victim over the internet and over the phone talking to them over the phone, cross connecting to their lender, update the file, close the file.
Mr. President, somebody can now open the file in another city and pick up right where they left off. That’s all because of Microsoft and I want to thank them and that’s also because of the President.
President William J. Clinton: Thank you for that.
Woman: I believe I gave out that information a few minutes ago.
President William J. Clinton: Give it again.
Maude Hurd: And I’ll give it again and I want to look at it so I don’t get it wrong. So let me just locate it here in my paperwork. But I know one of the sites you can call is the ACORN Hurricane Hotline and that’s 1-800-790-2290. Or you can go on the website if you have access to computer, its www.taxprep.acorn.org and you can get all of that information from those sites. Those are the sites that can help.
Man: What about office facility.
Maude Hurd: They’ll give you the office facility.
President William J. Clinton: They have an office here.
Maude Hurd: Yes, we have an office here.
President William J. Clinton: Pastor I think you were also referring to people who might be in need of help that may or may not be Katrina victims, that’s what ACORNs got: a strong New York presence here with an office and that’s one of the things they do there. So I urge you to call them.
Yes sir in the back.
President William J. Clinton: Yes I am, well first of all I am in regular touch with the state and the state committee headed by (Norman Francis) and (Walter Isaacson) and I talk to the Mayor a lot. (Wayne Leonard) the head of Entergy is a good friend of mine and I was delighted to get them some help so that the New Orleans public utility didn’t either have to double utility rates or declare bankruptcy
They still didn’t get the help on a comfortable level as ConEd did after 9/11. I think that was a mistake but they got something and I’m grateful for that. So the answer to your question is yes I’m in touch with them. I met with (Ely Broad) the Los Angeles philanthropist who talked about sending a huge amount of money to help rebuild the New Orleans school system.
I talked to the Mayor last night about the prospect about how the schools could be rebuilt to try to mix the – this goes right along with what John has done his whole life—to try to mix the income levels of the New Orleans students in the schools to be reconstituted.
There was a study that came out late last year saying that of all the urban school districts in the country in the last decade, Raleigh made the biggest gain and there were lost of reasons then. For most of that decade Jim Hunt was the Governor he had a passion and interest in education and they had lots of ways of identifying failing schools and putting in new managements.
But they factored all of that and they concluded the most significant thing was, they’ve gone back to the Civil Rights days when Raleigh had countywide people assignments. And while there were several schools that were overwhelmingly African American there were no schools left that were overwhelmingly poor.
And that the single most significant reason for the income gain was that poor children, middle-class kids and higher-income kids were evenly distributed throughout the school. So that even if there was an undue racial concentration there wasn’t an undue economic concentration. But there were high expectations, there were adults in the school, there were role models in the schools, nobody thought that any of the kids couldn’t learn. And there was an environment in which learning proceeded.
So I’ve given a lot of thought of what we can do to help to construct the new New Orleans Education System and I’ve talked to some people that want to help there. I strongly believe there’s an opportunity here to make New Orleans America’s first green city.
Beginning by recovering a lot of wetland. Let me remind you that it is less likely that the levees would have broken, in spite of whatever defects they had, if we hadn’t seen thirty years of wetlands erosion. If we recover the wetlands it might be less expensive and safer to build a modified levee and wetlands than something that’s stronger than level 5 and no wetlands because we keep destroying the wetlands.
I talked to a lot of people about whether when we rebuild low-income housing they could be immediately built with the best insulation, double-pane windows, complex rust and gliding. Maybe even the shingles that have solar reflectors in them. All the kinds of things that would make New Orleans a green city and go forward
The new energy bills that’s the only thing I liked about it was that it did have a 25% tax credit for the introduction of solar equipment. A lot of these office buildings have to be renovated. They now can get a 25% tax credit if they put solar cells in the office buildings. Solar usages went up 57% last year globally. Every time the usage doubled, supplies dropped 20%.
So I’m exploring trying to get financing for fuel plant in New Orleans. For the fishing industry, if we can produce fuel for basically a buck and half a gallon we can make low dollar diesel and diesel prices got up as high as $3. Typically if you’re a fisherman 17% of your cost if it goes to $3 it’s 33% and you make no profit. So we could create jobs in the manufacturing area in New Orleans and clean up the environment and help the fisherman all at the same time. So those are some of the other things that I’m looking at that are outside the Bush/Clinton Katrina Fund.
Man: One last question go ahead.
President William J. Clinton: No, but I’ve been going there ever since I was three years old. And the only family vacation my family ever took outside of Arkansas was the Gulf of Biloxi, New Orleans . We never did that when I was a kid.
I want everybody to be able to go back and they may not, you know. But the question of where to rebuild within New Orleans and how to rebuild and is different to whether people ought to be able to go there. But I want everybody that can go back, to be able to go back and if we do this right they will be able to. If we do the economics right, the housing right, the energy right and the education right, they will be able to go back.
President William J. Clinton: They haven’t. Listen let’s get the tax day first. Give me to April 15th with all sorts of money in their pockets and maybe we will decide what else to do. Thank you.
Maude Hurd: (Unintelligible).
President William J. Clinton: You wait here we got people here today who can help you. Right now. Don’t go anywhere you stay right here. Thank you.