WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Oct. 4, 2005–The following remarks were made today by John Bryant at a joint press conference held at FEMA headquarters with Operation HOPE, Inc., HOPE Coalition America, FEMA and Project Restore HOPE Partners in attendance. Subsequent to Bryant’s speech is Ambassador Young’s statement. Young is the national spokesperson for Operation HOPE.
John Bryant’s remarks at press conference with Operation HOPE, HOPE Coalition America, FEMA and Project Restore HOPE Partners:
"Operation HOPE was founded following the riots of 1992 in Los Angeles, but HOPE Coalition America emerged from the destruction of 9/11 in New York City, where we had just opened an office, just weeks prior, at 1 Liberty. That office was destroyed, but the vision for what I call an "economic Red Cross" for this country was given birth in its place, in the form of HOPE Coalition America.
"It has often been said that one cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.
"The prominent group of public and private partners standing here with me today, in an innovative new private-public partnership with the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, plan to be part of creating that positive rainbow after the storm for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, as victims begin to transition from the critical and necessary services provided by "first responders" into what I call second-stage response.
"HCA is a critical component of this second-stage response and recovery effort with FEMA; specifically, the financial and economic preparedness, response and recovery components.
"And so, it was in the backdrop of 9/11 that it became apparent to me that in a democracy rooted in capitalism and the free enterprise system, there was no what I would call "economic Red Cross" in America addressing the economic disaster that almost always follows, a physical and emotional disaster.
"That is why I founded HOPE Coalition America, the emergency economic volunteer disaster response program of Operation HOPE, and the national partner with FEMA, with whom we entered into an MOU and partnership in 2004.
"Services provided by HCA to include emergency volunteer economic;
— compassion counseling;
— emergency economic budget counseling, and emergency financial counseling;
— completion of the EFFAK, and assistance with reclaiming proof of legal and financial identity;
— and what we at Operation HOPE have come to call "economic triage."
"Economic triage is necessary when short-term financial aid is simply not enough to stem the flow of economic bad news in your life following a disaster, and ranges from simply helping to arrange the deferment of a payment or set of payments on credit card and consumer debt and other loans with your lender, to at times, helping to actually restructure a credit or financial relationship for the benefit of all involved.
"With that, let me now explain how HCA actually will work.
"With Hurricane Katrina more the 2 million victims have registered with FEMA for assistance.
"In coming weeks and months, many of these individuals will require help beyond what FEMA provides through immediate emergency cash payments, including the emergency economic counseling, emergency budget counseling, and economic triage counseling provided through HCA and its partners.
"Step one will be to register with FEMA for assistance, although individuals are more than welcome to call HCA direct at 1-888-388-HOPE.
"Individuals calling HCA or referred by FEMA will reach our new HOPE call center in Poway, California, made possible with a $500,000 cash and $200,000 in-kind contribution from First American Corporation, allowing us to hire full-time paid staff who are standing by to assist victims, and augmented by volunteer HOPE Corps professions such as the ones here with us today. Union Bank of California recently made a commitment of volunteers who will also help us with the Poway call center. In the event that our main call center reaches call capacity, at any time, overflow calls will be routed to First American’s Dallas, Texas, call center office, where First American employees, H&R Block and FDIC employees, and others will be standing by to help.
"Additional back up call centers include Bank of the West, who also committed $50,000 in support and employees; US Bank, contributing 2 call centers and employee help; and, finally, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are assisting us here.
"In addition to our "intake" HOPE Corps volunteers, from federal government agencies such as the FDIC, Office of Thrift Supervision, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, National Credit Union Administration and the U.S. Treasury Department of Financial Education, other HOPE Corps volunteers will be coming from our national partner Citigroup, Bank of America, who also made a $100,000 grant commitment, Washington Mutual, Bank of the West, H&R Block, who provided HCA with more than 150 employee volunteers following the hurricanes in Florida last year, along with 25 of their offices, and have already provided countless volunteers for Katrina on the ground in Texas and last week, in Baton Rouge, and even Trans Union, who also made a $100,000 cash grant to help offset relief costs for Project Restore HOPE, is providing HCA with "credit experts" as volunteers should we need them. Under the leadership of Insurance, Fire & Safety Commissioner John Oxendine of the State of Georgia, Georgia last week committed $100,000 towards our financial education efforts in the state, and has put out the word to insurance companies and others that volunteer opportunities exist as HOPE Corps members in and throughout Georgia. We will have a more specific announcement in this regard in days to come.
"And within a week, I am very proud to announce, we will bring online the first-ever interactive, desktop online economic case management client software, designed at no cost to us by our friends at Microsoft Corporation, with additional support from web portal Quilogy and secure hosting company Radixnet, allowing us to leverage and bring to scale our true ability to help. Thanks to the genius of Microsoft engineers, for the first time ever, virtual volunteers sitting at say Citigroup in New York City, will be able to access an HCA-assigned client file online, via secure server and password protection, contact the victim by telephone, wherever they may be, work through defined issues with the victim, possibly including cross connecting them to government agencies or financial service companies, in search of specific help or resolution.
"After concluding the telephone session the HCA HOPE Corps volunteer updates the online case file, c
loses out, and signs out of the software and re-engages in the normal business of their day. If Ms. Jones, the fictitious victim and client in this example, calls back even 10 minutes later to our offices with yet another question, a HCA employee or HOPE Corps volunteer in California or elsewhere can pull up that same file, and pick up where volunteer A left off.
"Thank you Microsoft, Radixnet and Quilogy for your innovative leadership here.
"For the first time, someone wanting to help, but unable to actually travel to a disaster area, can now do more than write a check or give blood — two critically important contributions for first responders, I might add. Now, as a HOPE Corps Virtual Volunteer, they can volunteer virtually, from wherever they are, whenever they can.
"Finally, we understand with Katrina and Rita that, in the short term, financial counseling may not be enough to bridge someone into their tomorrow. FEMA and Red Cross assistance, as robust as it is, may not be enough. America has never seen the likes of a disaster of this size and scope. And so, for this reason, our friends at E Trade Financial have stepped up to help us found the HOPE Fund with a $500,000 challenge grant.
"For victims already registered with FEMA for assistance and finding that they still have a "gap" need, the HOPE Fund will make grants up to $3,000 covering homeowners who are under-insured for repairs, or not insured at all, and those who want to rent an apartment or home but lack the required security deposit. We will make as many of these grants as possible but, of course, $500,000 and E Trade’s generosity will not last long. We are asking individuals, foundations and other corporations to take up the E Trade challenge, and to help us do more for the thousands of victims who need the practical resources we can provide here.
"Finally, I want to thank the minority community-based organizations that have joined us as partners, including 100 Black Men of America, Black Leadership Forum, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Rebuild Hope NOW, the National Association of Black Accountants, and Urban Financial Services Coalition, amongst others.
"And last but not least, the bold and unified leadership provided by our nation’s federal banking, thrift and credit union regulatory agencies. Within the past 3 weeks HOPE and HCA have signed MOUs around coordinated Katrina response with the FDIC, U.S. Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. Thank you.
"Now, what do we need?
"First and foremost, we need volunteers! More than 5,000 over the next 6 months, to be exact.
"We are honored to stand here today with the premiere booster for volunteerism in America, USA Freedom Corps, who will assist us in this regard in coming weeks.
"Americans with an interest in volunteering, particularly those with some defined financial experience or background, can do so at www.operationhope.org and www.usafreedomcorps.gov, or call us at 1-888-388-HOPE."
Public Statement from Ambassador Andrew Young
Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
Operation HOPE, HOPE Coalition America, FEMA Joint Press Conference for Project Restore HOPE:
"As a native of New Orleans, La., and the national spokesman for Operation HOPE, I am sorry I could not be there with you personally. At the time the press conference was scheduled I had committed to be at the Illinois State Trade Fair.
"The impact of Katrina is not just felt on a few folks who showed up on television following this disaster. The effects of this are national, and include all of the shipping that comes down the Mississippi river, spanning from Minneapolis to Tennessee, both agricultural and industrial. All of it requires a functioning port out of the mouth of the Mississippi.
"We are already seeing the effects of damages on oil and gas prices, and if we don’t get this under control, it will damage our larger economy.
"We still have over 1 million dislocated individuals all over the United States, and in addition to emergency help, they are going to have to learn to swim in deep financial waters almost immediately. That is what Operation HOPE does, and in the midst of this national emergency, what HOPE Coalition America can do.
"Most people know how to swim a little bit financially, but I think it is fair to say they have never been cast into waters this deep. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we cannot just rescue people. We have to teach them how to swim for themselves, and quickly, I might add.
"Finally, let me say that poor people are not without skills and ability financially. You must be savvy to survive poor in America. We just want them to begin to use all of their wits, talents and abilities, as they begin to manage their way through these deep financial waters in days ahead.
"And when they do, and when they need a little help in getting to shore, so to speak, Operation HOPE and its HOPE Coalition America, a partner with the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, will be there."