July 21, 2010, 2010; Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | The same generosity that Americans showed to victims of Hurricane Katrina five years ago is not repeating itself for those hurt by the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast. As an example, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that in the weeks following Katrina, Catholic Charities USA received more than $160 million in donations. Since the BP disaster, Catholic Charities has collected a puny $37,000, even though its president, Larry Snyder, says the group has been working just as hard to raise money this time as it did for hurricane victims.
Similarly, The Greater New Orleans Foundation has only been able to raise $250,000 for out-of-work Gulf Coast residents, some 20 percent of what it took in over a comparable period following Hurricane Katrina, even though, it too, has made a major push for support. “The national response has just not been that enthusiastic,” said Josephine Everly, development officer.
Calling the small response “unreal,” during a Congressional hearing earlier this week focused on charitable giving in the Gulf Coast region, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta had some harsh words for tax-exempt groups that he believes should be doing more. “I am somewhat shocked and dismayed that the foundations do not appear to be doing their part, ” he said. “People are suffering. They’re hurting.”
Observers blame the meager support for oil spill victims on the poor economy, which is affecting giving to all kinds of causes, and what charity leaders also say is a mistaken belief that the $20 billion BP has committed to put in escrow will take care of the needs of all affected fisherman, hospitality industry workers, and others who’ve been harmed. As Catholic Charities’ Snyder reminds us, “It’s going to be quite a while before anybody sees any of that money.”—Bruce Trachtenberg