Almost one month after Hurricane Hanna made landfall in South Texas, the Commission for Disaster Preparedness and Response has finished its assessment process and follow-up calls with affected congregations. Following an initial disaster assessment report, nine churches located in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend regions reported water damage or minor structural damage to church property, and are filing insurance claims for repair costs. Commission members will continue reaching out to potentially affected congregations, as needed.
While the destruction to church property was minimal, the compounding impacts of the hurricane and COVID-19 pandemic on migrant and refugee populations within South Texas escalated a desperate situation from bad to worse. The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has received an outreach grant in the amount of $20,000 from Episcopal Relief and Development to provide emergency assistance in response to Hurricane Hanna and COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley. Flor Saldivar, diocesan Coordinator for Immigrant and Refugee Ministries, will administer the grant, assisted by Jennifer Wickham in her ongoing role with the Disaster Response Commission. The funds will provide food, household supplies, and access to medical support for low-income communities and asylum-seeking, migrant families within the diocese.
Episcopal Relief and Development reports that, "While Hurricane Hanna caused physical damage across many of the counties [in the Diocese of West Texas], the storm’s most significant impact was in the Rio Grande Valley, an area already reeling from the devastating effects of COVID-19 and a worsening immigration crisis. Almost eighteen inches of rain fell in some areas, and low-lying areas flooded. High winds damaged many homes and buildings. Destruction was most severe in colonias, [low-income communities] made up of primarily of undocumented and marginalized families.
...To support undocumented and other vulnerable families impacted by COVID-19, the diocese is providing COVID-19 medical care and testing, internet access for students returning to school online and other emergency supplies. The diocese’s [Immigration Ministries] is also providing cleaning and other household supplies and food assistance for families in the community and for migrants in a tent community across the Mexican border."
'The Diocese of West Texas has significant relationships in the Rio Grande Valley and extensive experience in responding to disasters like Hurricane Harvey,” said Lura Steele, Program Officer, Episcopal Relief & Development. “This preparation allowed them to take swift action to provide aid in communities that were already dealing with the effects of COVID-19 when Hurricane Hanna struck.'"
Episcopal Relief & Development is responding to needs created by the COVID-19 Pandemic around the world and in the United States; assisting partners with technical expertise and tools as they adjust programming with necessary physical distancing and enhanced sanitation protocols; and providing emergency assistance such as food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and sanitation kits. To learn more about Episcopal Relief & Development's global pandemic response, click here.
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