Former U.S. presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton have announced several grants to communities along the Gulf Coast that are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.
The two former presidents made their announcement here in New Orleans at Kingsley House, a community outreach program that was one of the grant recipients. Altogether the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund gave $9.7 million to local governments and non-governmental organizations in the three states hit by Katrina: Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Former president Bush said the fund he and former president Clinton head was made possible by donations from millions of ordinary citizens.
"We have been deeply touched by the generosity of the American people, who once again proved they know how to be good neighbors," said Mr. Bush. "They opened their hearts and their wallets, and have given generously to so many funds, including ours. We anticipate that, by the time the last dime is counted, the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund will have raised $130 million."
Former president Clinton said the grants cover a wide range of programs and projects in the Katrina-ravaged areas.
"The grants we announce today amount to almost $10 million," said Mr. Clinton. "They go to all three states affected, to build new homes, provide mental health and health care services, rebuild water, sewer and gas lines, build shoreline improvement projects, provide community and child development services, financial counseling and economic recovery."
The Bush-Clinton Fund awarded a $2 million grant to the city of Waveland, Mississippi, to bridge the gap between what federal funds provide and what the local community must pay to restore infrastructure. Waveland City Clerk Lisa Planchard told VOA, the restoration of water, sewage and electricity will allow many displaced people to return.
"They are hindered right now, because we do not have the infrastructure to accommodate the people who want to come back. They want to come home, but they just cannot," she explained.
Another grant went to the community of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, where 23 shrimp boats, mostly owned by Vietnamese immigrants, were blown ashore. Tin Nguyen says the money will help him regain his livelihood.
"The fund will provide us the necessary funds to put a vessel down, to get us to start working again," he said.
That is welcome news to who tells VOA the fish and shrimp boat operators, about half of whom are Asian-Americans, contribute greatly to the local economy.
"All these people are going back to work," explained Wright. "This is going to happen within 45 days. We are very grateful to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund for providing us $1.6 million to the city of Bayou La Batre to remove these boats, and get them back in the water again, and get them working."
The two former presidents are in New Orleans for another event, as well, as the keynote speakers at the Saturday commencement ceremony at Tulane University.