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January 01 2007

Over 73,000 Hurricane Affected Individuals Benefit Through Operation HOPE Initiative to Aid Gulf Region

HOPE Coalition America helps disperse more than $12 million

LOS ANGELES, CA—March 27, 2007— Since the devastating hurricanes of 2005, Operation HOPE (HOPE) has provided "economic triage" to those affected by the 2005 hurricanes – dispersing grant funds and providing financial guidance meeting rebuilding and recovery needs. Through Project Restore HOPE (PRH) – HOPE’s economic recovery initiative for those affected by the 2005 hurricanes 73,781 individuals have received financial guidance, a HOPE fund grant award, or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefits.

Project Restore HOPE is managed by HOPE’s national financial emergency preparedness and assistance division, HOPE Coalition America (HCA) and has dispersed $500 thousand in grant monies received from longtime partner E*TRADE. The fund was established to cover insurance gaps for rebuilding the home or business of individuals and families affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma or Rita. Benefits, including EITC, have totaled some $12.9 million for recovery and rebuilding assistance through PRH and its partners.  Total assistance for the program includes $6.6 million in EITC collected in hurricane affected areas and total returns claimed with tax refunds of $11,934,879. 

"After Hurricane Katrina struck, Operation HOPE pledged from the beginning of the recovery process that HOPE would be part of creating a rainbow after the storm, and we are continuing our efforts to help as families and individuals continue this long process of rebuilding their lives and their homes," said HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant.

Through PRH, 183 hurricane affected individuals and families have received funds to rebuild their home or business. The grant has been a benefit to Rochelle Woodbridge of Port Arthur, TX a mother of four who used the funds to repair the roof of her home. Carla and Edwin Smith of Pascagoula, MS a couple, whose home suffered water damage, used the money to purchase a new air conditioning unit. Mark Raiford of Sandy Hook, MS who never left his home during the storm, survived the hurricane along with most of his home, used the money to rebuild the room that was ripped off the back of the house. With the help of the PRH funds, Janika Carter, a New Orleans resident and mother of four, used the funds received to pay the security deposit and the first month\'s rent to set up a new home for her family. And in the case of the Ronald Ragan of Violet, LA the money went to replace the damaged floors in his kitchen, living room, and bedroom.

The initiative supported by a $200,000 in-kind contribution from First American Corporation, helped establish a national toll-free call center, which has provided counseling to 32,158 individuals affected by hurricanes. Software donated by Microsoft valued at more than $100,000 and tabase development by Quilogy made the call center service and online case management assistance possible. Support from lead volunteer partners in this initiative also include, a $750,000 commitment from the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund, a PSA awareness campaign featuring the voice of former President Bill Clinton, the William J. Clinton Foundation, and H & R Block free tax filing assistance for those affected to claim EITC benefits. Additional support came from financial leaders, Bank of America, Bank of the West, TransUnion, Citigroup and legal consulting services, Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips.

A $1.1 million contract with the Mississippi Development Authority has helped sustain efforts focused in the Mississippi area. HOPE also serves as a lead partner for emergency economic recovery for Governor Haley Barbour and the State of Mississippi as well as Louisiana Governor Katherine Blanco’s appointed Louisiana Recovery Authority.

Key regulatory agencies whose assistance further contributed the success of gulf recovery efforts included the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Thrift Supervision, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The division, HOPE Coalition America, was formed in 2001, the result of a partnership with Department of Homeland Security. HCA works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Citizen Corps and the American Red Cross as a grass-roots initiative to provide "economic triage" -- emergency financial budgeting counseling, in times of catastrophe and or disaster. HCA will continue to provide survivors in the affected areas with the following services:

• Recovery Budgeting and the Use of Grant Funds
• Identifying Repairs and Desired Improvements
• Selecting a Qualified Building Contractor
• Grant, Existing Loan and New Loan Processes
• Monitoring the Process and Paying the Contractor
• Avoiding Legal Problems and Preventing Fraud

Gulf area victims, who are still in need of assistance, are urged to contact HCA toll-free at 888-388-HOPE (4673) for financial counseling, budgeting assistance and home repair and rebuilding guidelines.