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UMCOR grants target U.S. flooding

Tens of thousands of homes sustained extensive damage from the floodwaters, with 20 parishes (the Louisiana equivalent of counties) declared eligible for disaster assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The funding from UMCOR will support volunteer management and home reconstruction, with additional tool and material resources at each hosting site.

Nearly $2 million for disaster response funding for flooding in four U.S. states was approved during the annual fall board meeting of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The denomination's Louisiana Conference received a total of $700,000 to assist with recovery in the southern part of the state, where six trillion gallons of rainwater fell in just three days in August.

Jeremain (left) and Jeremaih Robinson pile up ruined furnishings from a home that was heavily damaged by flooding in Baton Rouge, La. The 16-year-old twins were part of a volunteer team from First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.

Also approved was $500,000 for flood recovery in West Virginia, where historic floods in June damaged or destroyed thousands of homes, along with United Methodist churches and parsonages. The West Virginia Conference will target about 120 vulnerable families living near churches and other facilities to better arrange support for volunteer teams.

Grants addressed two regions of Texas that experienced flooding in 2016. The Texas Conference is receiving a total of $300,000 to help 200 households in 10 counties recovery from flooding that occurred from March to May. A $200,000 grant for the Central Texas Conference is helping with home repairs and case management assisting families affected by extensive flooding in Hood County in early June.

The Mississippi Conference received $250,000 to support its response to March floods that hit the state's most vulnerable populations. "Due to the lack of insurance and the high degree of poverty in the affected areas, the recovery is expected to take up to two years," the grant proposal said.

As long-term recovery begins, the funding from UMCOR will "enable the conference to begin the long process of helping individuals and families get back into their homes by making them liveable," the grant application stated.

Everyone knows the cost of recovering from disasters has increased, UMCOR head, Rev. Jack Amick told directors, but the death rate also has jumped. "The number of people dead has surprisingly gone up — tripled — in the last year," he said, noting there were 7,823 deaths attributed to disasters in 2014 and 22,773 in 2015.

The increased impact, he explained, is due to three factors — dense urban populations, people living in places vulnerable to climate change and more violent conflicts. "Last year, about half of the international grants had something to do with conflict."

"We want to respond to as many disasters as we can," Amick stressed. In addition to those that make front-page news, "we want to respond to the small disasters, the unheard of disasters, the underreported disasters."

Linda Bloom, multimedia reporter based in New York, United Methodist News Service

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR's "costs of doing business." This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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