The Obama administration unveiled plans Sept. 28 for a large-scale Gulf Coast recovery effort, aimed at providing long-term financial assistance, to improve the regions environment, economy and health.
Work by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are at the heart of the plan of the administration to bring relief to Gulf coast residents.
The plan, unveiled by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus includes a restoration plan and a call for dedicating to the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund “significant” amounts from civil penalties gathered from those responsible for the crisis.
“I am honored to have been asked by the president to put together this plan, and am pleased to present him a plan which meets the goals he set in June,” Mabus said in a statement. “The plan is the result of listening to the people of the gulf coast. It balances the needs of the people, the environment and the economic livelihood of the region.”
Obama also named EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to head the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. The task force was commissioned to help create and maintain gulf coast ecosystems while providing economic support and addressing possible long-term health issues of residents.
“President Obama has said many times that our commitment to the families and environment in the gulf extends far beyond capping the well,” said Jackson in a statement. We’re sending that message loud and clear today: our work is not complete until the people and the environment they rely on are on the path to restoration and recovery.”
There’s also been a help line launched by HHS and one of its smaller agencies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The helpline will provide information, support, and counseling for families affected by the spill. The toll-free line will route callers to the nearest Gulf Coast crisis center where staff will provide assistance. The program is expected to expand its support to text messages later this fall.
In related news, the president will have to find a new national incident commander for the spill as Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen is retiring. Obama says the nation owes Allen a “debt of gratitude“, however some see Allen as the symbol for the government’s slow response to the crisis.
“What difference did he make once he came in? Where was the change? Where was the response?” Louisiana shrimper Acy Cooper asked USA Today. “We didn’t see it.”