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Background: HHS Participation in the Recovery of the Gulf Coast

The federal government has committed almost $90 billion for relief, recovery and rebuilding in the Gulf Coast region following last year's hurricanes. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continues to play a central role in the recovery effort.

Highlights of HHS participation in the Gulf Coast recovery effort thus far include:

Immediate Response:

In the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina, HHS activated and mobilized all of its emergency response capabilities to help state and local officials provide assistance to victims. Experts from across HHS, including CDC and FDA, were made available to augment state and local public health resources. Hundreds of thousands of doses of antibiotics and other medications, as well as medical supplies and equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, were shipped to the Gulf Coast. Special "evacuee" status was granted to individuals affected by Katrina, which simplified the enrollment process for programs like Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Head Start.

Declaration of a Public Health Emergency:

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt extended an existing public health state of emergency through January 31, 2006 to ensure vital services are available to meet the needs of Gulf Coast residents and evacuees. The Secretary's order applied to states affected by Katrina-Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida-as well as those harboring many evacuees: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Medicaid Waivers:

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 appropriated $2 billion for Hurricane Katrina Waivers through the Medicaid program. As part of these waiver demonstrations, eight states were able to reimburse providers that incurred uncompensated care costs as a result of serving an estimated 325,000 evacuees. 32 states were able to provide continuity of coverage for up to five months for displaced low-income individuals by temporarily enrolling them in a host state's Medicaid program through a simplified enrollment process.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families:

Short-term, non-recurrent cash benefits are being provided through the TANF program to families who traveled to another state from the disaster designated states. The hurricane-damaged States of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama also received additional TANF funds to provide assistance and work opportunities to needy families - $69 million for loan forgiveness and $25 million in contingency funds for state welfare programs.

Social Services:

HHS awarded $550 million in Social Service Block Grants to respond to the human services and mental health needs of individuals in the affected region. The funding will also provide support to those lacking health insurance or adequate access to care, and to health care safety net providers.

Head Start:

The Head Start program received $90 million to cover the costs of replacing or repairing facilities that were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita that are not covered by insurance or FEMA. The funds also covered the costs of serving approximately 4,800 evacuee children from January 1, 2006 to the end of each grantee's current school year (i.e., late May or early June.)