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RESTORE Act offers Gulf Coast a Shot at Economic Mobility

RESTORE Act offers Gulf Coast a Shot at Economic Mobility
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This post was written by Jeffrey Buchanan, senior domestic policy advisor at Oxfam America.

Out of the tragedy of the 2010 BP oil disaster, we could soon see hope emerge. New legislation, the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, just passed by Congress, could bring billions of dollars in resources and a range of new opportunities for environmental restoration, fighting poverty, and promoting economic mobility.

According to the Pew Center on the States, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas rank among the worst states in the country for economic mobility: whether it’s the ability of a child born into a poor family to climb the economic ladder or the likelihood of a middle class family to fall into poverty.

They are also home to fishing communities like Dulac, LA, Apalachicola, FL, Bayou La Batre, AL, Point au La Hatche, LA and Pascagoula, MS, which face double to triple the national poverty rates. These communities have always been places of limited means, but a healthy Gulf put a roof over the heads and food on the table of families for generations. But now, after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, small multi-generational family fishing and seafood enterprises are under threat.

The full extent of the spill’s ecological damages is unknown, but in many places shrimp, oyster, and crab catches are down. This means underemployed shrimp boat captains, oyster harvesters, and deckhands and layoffs at processing plants. The loss of income has stretched social services as proud, formerly self-reliant people are forced to turn to community nonprofit agencies and food pantries for assistance.

It’s not just the recent disasters that have bruised the Gulf; over many years, the region has lost 50 percent of its inland and coastal wetlands and oyster reefs. Over the next 20 years, the Gulf is vulnerable to an estimated $300 billion in economic damages from hurricanes, coastal erosion, sea level rise, and flooding.

Recognizing this challenge, a coalition of Gulf State legislators led by Senators Mary Landrieu, Bill Nelson and Richard Shelby, along with Reps. Steve Scalise, Palazzo, and Cedric Richmond, together with community, environmental, and business allies navigated historic legislation to direct 80% of as much as $21 billion in 2010 BP oil spill civil fines back to economic and environmental restoration of the Gulf Coast states.

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Photo: Audra Melton/Oxfam.

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7 comments

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8:59AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

Glad folks liked the blog! The bill was a big step for Congress, despite fits and starts, leaders in the Gulf Senate and House delegations really came together, reached across the aisle and perhaps most importantly across the U.S. Capitol to get Congressional leadership on both sides behind an innovative bill that in the end will get something very important done for their constiuents, restoring communities and ecosystems and hopefully, with some effort, creating new economic opportunities for the most vulnerable.

Since I wrote the piece the President has signed the bil, so now coastal communities move on to the fight to ensure the best use of these funds! Onward!

8:21PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

ty

3:26PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Looks like the Congress is actually doing *something* right!

7:48AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Thank you for the article...

6:17AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

an historic opportunity that should not be wasted

5:05AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

thanks

4:58AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Certainly, better late than never, but this took how long?

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Having worked at a science museum, this is a really sticky wicket. Lots of people have been laid off…

This is no sport its a horror scene Poor dogs

Good to know. The more the better, the sooner the better.

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