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October 04 2005

Operation HOPE & FEMA Announce Project Restore HOPE? National Economic Recovery Initiative for Hurricane Victims

Government and corporate officials discuss economic effects of Katrina and make national
request for volunteers and support

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - Operation HOPE (HOPE), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal and corporate leaders today issued a public “call for action and support” of Project Restore HOPE, the nation’s first official economic recovery initiative for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Managed through HOPE’s emergency preparation and recovery division HOPE Coalition America, Project Restore HOPE will provide free financial counseling and resources, economic assistance and budgeting advice to hurricane victims through one-on-one counseling in disaster-affected communities, at FEMA disaster recovery centers, online and over the phone from recently launched call center facilities in Poway, Calif., and Dallas, Texas.

John Bryant, founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, said this is the next necessary stage of recovery for hurricane victims.

“As victims recover from the loss of loved ones, troubled health, and the destruction of homes, workplaces, automobiles and their general ways of life, they are now faced with a challenge to survive financially, a challenge that may seem impossible to many and has a much longer road toward resolution,” Bryant said. “We have no choice but to help these victims recover economically by providing resources, education and general financial counsel, things many of these victims have never had.”

HOPE Coalition America is currently recruiting part-and full-time “HOPE Corps volunteers” with banking, insurance, credit union, finance and accounting backgrounds to provide financial counseling and support at:

• Financial Help Line call centers in Poway, Calif., and Dallas Texas
• FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Los Angeles, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi
• On-the-ground sites—at locations currently housing evacuees around the country
• “Virtual Help Centers” (case managers who can provide assistance from any location via the Internet or phone)

Financial assistance to be provided by HOPE Corps volunteers to hurricane victims includes but is not limited to:

• Help obtaining lost or destroyed financial documents and personal identification
• Emergency budget guidance
• Emergency credit management
• Assistance with deferring mortgage payments
• Assistance with working with creditors
• Referrals to government or private agencies
• Insurance claims assistance

The organization is also requesting support for the production and dissemination of the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK), a federal document offering easy to understand step-by-step directions and tips to protect personal assets and finances and limit liabilities when emergencies or disasters hit.  EFFAK is currently available to victims online at http://www.operationhope.org and through FEMA (listed as FEMA publication #532.)

David Garratt of FEMA supports the efforts of HOPE Coalition America, citing it as a much-needed partnership to support low-wealth and urban communities affected by Hurricane Katrina.
"This nation, specifically the Gulf states, have endured two of the worst disasters in our history. Along with the partnerships to provide food and temporary housing to the victims, we must help these victims get their sense of economic security back," said David Garratt, Acting Division Director of FEMA's Recovery Division.
 
"FEMA has formed a relationship with Operation HOPE and HOPE Coalition because they offer a unique and much-needed set of services, aimed at limiting the economic impact on individuals affected by these disasters. This partnership is one that will greatly benefit many of the urban and lower-income victims who can rely on Operation HOPE and its staff for sound financial advice and direction."

Project Restore HOPE has launched with the help of several generous corporate contributions, including $500,000 from First American Corp. toward the call centers and virtual help center programs and $500,000 from E-Trade to assist uninsured and underinsured homeowners and families who can not afford security deposits and other costs associated with renting new homes.

"We are honored to be a partner in Project Restore Hope,” said Landon V. Taylor, Vice President, First American Corporation. “The families that are suffering from the impact of Katrina are our fellow Americans. We must stand by them."

“We continue to be astounded by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and by the work that will be required to rebuild cities, neighborhoods and most importantly lives,” said Arlen Gelbard, Chief Administrative Officer, E*TRADE FINANCIAL Corporation. “Through its partnership with Operation Hope, E*TRADE FINANCIAL is extending $500,000 in home recovery grants to those affected by Katrina, to cover lapses in homeowners’ and flood insurance policies, or to begin to make the necessary repairs to their homes and their lives.”

Other key contributors and partners cited by Operation HOPE and present included Microsoft Corp., who donated software to help manage the virtual help center program, Trans Union, Bank of America, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Thrift Supervision, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, The National Council of Black Mayors, and the National Credit Union Administration, as well as community partners Urban Financial Services Coalition, Black Leadership Forum, Independent Community Bankers Association, National Bankers Association, Consumer Bankers Association, National Association of Black Accountants, 100 Black Men of America and Citizen Corps.

Bryant extended appreciation to all current contributors, but also issued a reminder that these contributions will only take us so far.

“The goal is to get the victims of Katrina stabilized and on their feet again financially, a challenge which will take years, possibly decades of education, counsel and resources to overcome,” Bryant said.   “The experience base of our volunteer staff enables us to help disaster victims quickly address and minimize the loss due to Katrina’s devastation, but our resources can only take us so far. I hereby request every able American individual, organization and corporation to help us see through the economic recovery of the poor and underserved victims of Hurricane Katrina—through volunteerism and financial support.”

For more information on how to be a part of or contribute to Project Restore HOPE, visit http://www.operationhope.org/katrina, or call 1-877-592-HOPE (4673).

Other major supports of HCA and Project Restore HOPE include: National Coalition on Black, Civic Participation, ReBuild Hope NOW, National Capital Revitalization Corporation, Premiere Radio Networks, Bank of the West, US Bank , H & R Block Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Georgia Insurance, Fire & Safety Commissioner, Citigroup, Washington Mutual, Union Bank of California and  Manatt/Phelps/Phillips.

About Operation HOPE
Operation HOPE, Inc., is America's first nonprofit social investment bank and a national provider of financial literacy and economic empowerment programs. Through ongoing collaborations and long-term partnerships with leading government, private sector, and community interests, HOPE works to bring self-sufficiency and a sustained spirit of revitalization to America's inner-city communities. HOPE Centers are a growing network of inner-city banking centers. To date, HOPE has created more than 800 new homeowners and small business owners, more than $125 million in funded loans, and more than $240 million in commitments for homeownership and small business loans from their 250 bank and corporate partners. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and a network of private and community partners, HOPE Coalition America has provided free financial counseling and casework services to Americans affected by natural disasters and national emergencies in 125 cities in 35 states to date. Taken together, these programs make Operation HOPE the national leader in economic empowerment tools and services for the under-served in America. HOPE and its programs can be found online at www.operationhope.org, www.bankingonourfuture.org, and www.hopecoalitionamerica.org.

ABOUT HOPE Coalition America
Created in 2001 in response to the 9/11 tragedy, HOPE Coalition America is a recognized partner with Dept. of Homeland Security FEMA and Citizen Corps, a division of the nationwide grass-roots initiative, to actively involve Americans in creating safer, stronger and better prepared communities. HCA provides free compassionate economic counseling, financial reconstruction and emergency money management in disaster and emergency situations.

ABOUT FEMA
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

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