Following Hurricane Rita, Congressman Poe and his staff immediately responded to the needs of the people in Jefferson County. Congressman Poe was in Jefferson County Sunday morning after Rita passed and personally met with First Responders on the ground, took an aerial tour with Beaumont Police of the region and Port areas.

The District Office was closed because of the evacuation and power outages, but staff members were immediately relocated, and phones redirected, to the Humble office to assist constituents navigating the FEMA process and direct people to the agencies offering on-site assistance.

In the weeks following, Congressman Poe and his staff held a daily conference call for ALL area officials to call in with their needs and concerns.

He traveled to the area with President Bush on Air Force One and was able to take another aerial helicopter tour with him to personally point out and discuss the damage and needs of the people in Jefferson County.

That same week, he returned with the Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, and met with local rice farmers and also accompanied him on an aerial tour surveying the toll Rita took on our regions farming and agriculture industry.

Congressman Poe hosted a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) from the Homeland Security Subcommittee on October 30, 2005. The CODEL took and aerial tour of the Gulf Coast region from Galveston to Louisiana border. Congressman Poe and the CODEL members met with local officials in Jefferson County at Lamar University to discuss recovery efforts and federal response.

The Congressional District Office has coordinated with local Chambers of Commerce to hold two informational workshops with the Small Business Association to help area business owners be better informed of assistance that is available to them. Congressman Poe met with Small Business Administration Director, Hector Barreto to emphasize the need to cut through red tape to help the businesses in Southeast Texas. The GO Loan program was announced by the SBA shortly after their meeting.

On October 22, 2005, Congressman Poe was joined by over 100 constituents, 35 FEMA, Corps of Engineer and SBA representatives at a Town Hall meeting in Beaumont to update residents on what is being done on their behalf and address concerns they are having in the recovery process. Another FEMA Town Hall meeting was held on November 19, 2005, in Port Arthur. Congressman Poe was also joined by area farmers for an Agriculture Town Hall meeting on November 30, 2005. Representatives from FEMA, USDA, SBA, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Department of Insurance, and Texas Department of Agriculture were on hand to answer questions and provide direct assistance.

In the weeks after Hurricane Rita, Congressman Poe met personally with Homeland Security Director, Michael Chertoff, to emphasize the need for full federal funding in Southeast Texas, particular relating to our request to President Bush and FEMA for 100 percent funding of debris removal in Jefferson County. To our disappointment, FEMA denied our request.

That same day, Congressman Poe addressed the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environments Hurricane Preparedness Panel about the need to discuss equalization of federal relief efforts as it applies to both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He specifically reminded the Panel, Let me be candid, Port Arthur is just as important as New Orleans. The 40 year old levy in Port Arthur did not break, but people suffered from Hurricane Rita anyway.

Congress appropriated more that $1.6 million in emergency funding for the Sabine Neches Water Way (SNWW). The funding will assist in clean up and additional dredging in recovery efforts as a result of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Chris Fisher, Executive Director of the Port of Beaumont, expressed his gratitude of the efforts made to restore the SNWW, The Port of Beaumont is very grateful to Congressman Ted Poe for ensuring that the critical needs of maritime transportation in Southeast Texas are being met."

In addition to the SNWW emergency funding, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for FY06 allocated $30.5 billion in total spending. The Corps of Engineers will receive $5.4 billion, nearly $57 million more than 2005.

Most recently on December 7, 2005, Congressman Ted Poe hosted a delegation of 14 US/Texas Congressional Members and staff representatives to meet with the Friends of Southeast Texas. The group is comprised of community leaders from Southeast Texas in an effort to bring awareness to the needs of their region in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita and create a plan for future disaster preparedness. Congressman Poe hosted the meeting in his Washington, DC office and has been working with the group to ensure that they receive equal treatment under the Federal relief efforts for both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Current co-sponsored legislation includes, the Essential Gulf Coast Recovery Act 2005. This legislation addresses several time sensitive issues significant to the recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. Among several provision in this Bill, will be 100 percent funding for debris removal in declared Disaster zones. It will also allow for allows the President to provide assistance to financially distressed state and local governments to cover base pay and overtime expenses for some essential response and recovery personnel. It extends the eligible period of disaster unemployment assistance from 26 to 52 weeks from the date of disaster declaration made for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita and creates a new grant program for state and local governments to improve interoperability and survivability of emergency communications systems with $6 billion over 3 years.

Congressman Poe joined Congressman Kevin Brady as a co-sponsor of the Hurricane Rita Relief Legislation that was included in the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005. This Bill allows disaster victims to make penalty-free withdrawals from an IRA. It also allows deductions of personal property losses from taxes and, for the working poor, makes sure child and earned income tax credits are not impacted by the disaster. It permits unlimited cash donations to be deducted by corporations and provides up to $2,400 per worker for small businesses to keep employees on the payroll through the end of the year. For private timber land owners in East Texas, the bill doubles the deduction they are able to take on tax filings from $10,000 to $20,000 for reforestation costs.

Efforts to see that the residents of Jefferson County are treated equally and fairly represented are ongoing and continue to be a top focus for Congressman Ted Poe and his entire staff. Constituents are encouraged to contact any of our three offices with any concerns and our staff will gladly assist them.