Federal disaster-relief agency needed

By Leslie Williams

An agency capable of coordinating nonprofits and local, state and federal governments during a disaster would prevent another human services crisis like the one that followed Hurricane Katrina, a new report says.

The report, “Weathering the Storm: the Role of Local Nonprofits in the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort,” was written by Tony Pipa, former executive director of the Warner Foundation in Durham, N.C.

When national responder groups became overwhelmed by the volume of support needed by hurricane victims, the burden shifted to local soup kitchens and churches, the report says.

However, those local nonprofits received limited support from the Federal Emergency Management Association or Red Cross, requiring some to reduce services or close their doors.

“Hurricane Katrina showed that there is no central disaster planning and coordination entity that connects the local to the national,” said Alan Abramson, director of the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program of the Aspen Institute, which published the report, in a statement.

Such a government body would help define roles of agencies and resolve coordination issues, such as how to route money and supplies from large organizations to small grassroots agencies, the report says.

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