Monday, January 2, 2012

Rites of Passage. African-American young males and females

Let's take the giant leap for young African-American males.

PUSH for national implementation for 13-year old African-American males for 'Rites of Passage' programs, and for females stick with the debuntante balls.

Rites of Passage: 8-Solutions for Black Churches

Solutions for Black Churches
  1. Create a Rites of Passage Program for community youth.
  2. Start an entrepreneurial program to teach youth business principles.
  3. Plan and implement summer programs for youth that focus on math, science and technology.
  4. Develop a community based Parent Leadership Academy.
  5. Organize church membership to adopt a community school.
  6. Start a book club that reads critical life sustaining books.
  7. Develop a voter education campaign that will address all aspects of grassroots politics.
  8. Mobilize men in the church to start a ‘Fatherhood Network” to address issues related to fatherhood and child rearing.
Community development must extend outside of the pulpit!

10 Point Plan for Developing Faith-Based Violence Prevention Projects

10 Point Plan for Developing Faith-Based Violence Prevention Projects for African American Males

1 - Meet with congregation and key church officials to determine interests around developing a faith-based, community-focused, violence prevention project with African American males.

2 - Develop needs assessment (survey community residents, school officials and community leaders & parents) for a violence prevention project.

3 - Educate congregation on the impact of violence on the greater community.

4 - Decide on how large or small the project will be.
5 - Review the Dare To Be King Model and other models specifically designed to address violence among African American males.

6 - Explore funding for violence prevention projects (grants, donations etc.).

7 - Recruit and organize church volunteers.

8 - Arrange the Dare To Be King Train the Trainer workshop/conference for church staff and volunteers.

9 - Contact local Universities and Colleges to determine availability to evaluate violence prevention project.

Dare to be King. What if the Prince Lives?

Churches should play a major role in improving the social conditions within the African American community. Historically, the Black church has had a unique and powerful tradition of community outreach and youth development. African American Pastors remain in a unique position to significantly affect knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors within the African American community.

Further, the Black church’s historical role in providing education, social services, and a safe haven for youth has been well documented throughout slavery, reconstruction and the civil rights movement. Today, black churches represent over 8 denominations and encompass some 65,000 churches and well over 20 million members.

In an effort to respond to the growing challenges that affect African American males face regarding violence, the Dare To Be King Model was developed for churches, schools and other community groups to be able to provide an instrument designed to address anger, impulse control and decision making among adolescent African American males.

The Dare To Be King Model is recommended for churches that are “seriously” interested in working with adolescent African American males! Our churches must be able to address the spiraling decline of life for African American males.

Katrina: Still in the after effects

FEMA bills Katrina victims for improper payments; new law allows waivers for some.

By Michael Kunzelman, Published: December 29

NEW ORLEANS — When the Federal Emergency Management Agency mailed out 83,000 debt notices last year to victims of Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 storms, one of the letters showed up in David Bellinger’s mailbox. Bel­linger, who is blind, needed a friend to read it and break the news that FEMA wants him to pay back more than $3,200 in federal aid he received after Katrina.

“I nearly had a stroke,” recalls the 63-year-old, who moved to Atlanta after the storm wrecked his New Orleans home. “I’m totally blind. I subsist entirely on a Social Security disability check. If I have to pay this money back, it would pretty much wipe out all the savings I have.”

Many other Gulf Coast hurricane victims are in the same position, angry and frustrated at the prospect of repaying money they spent years ago as they tried to rebuild their lives.

FEMA is seeking to recover more than $385 million it says was improperly paid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The debts, which average about $4,622 per recipient, represent slightly less than 5 percent of the roughly $8 billion that FEMA distributed after the storms. At least some of the overpayments were due to FEMA employees’ mistakes, ranging from clerical errors to failing to interview applicants, according to congressional testimony.

But the agency says it is required by law to make an effort to recover improper payments, even if the recipient wasn’t at fault. Last month, however, Congress approved legislation that would allow FEMA to waive many of the debts. President Obama signed the measure — part of a $1 trillion spending package — into law Dec. 23.

FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said the agency is reviewing the law’s provisions and developing a plan to implement them. It remains to be seen how many recipients of FEMA money could benefit from the change.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who sponsored the provision, said disaster victims shouldn’t be punished because FEMA was “dysfunctional.”
“They have significantly improved the process,” Landrieu said of the agency. “This is very unlikely to happen again.”

Racusen said FEMA has implemented “strong protections” to avoid making improper payments, reducing its error rate from about 14 percent after Katrina to less than 1 percent for more recent disasters.

“We have also worked to significantly improve the recoupment process so that it is more understandable and provides due process for both disaster survivors and taxpayers,” she said in a statement.

FEMA’s collection efforts aren’t limited to the 2005 storms. The agency has mailed out more than 6,000 debt letters to survivors of other recent disasters, including floods.

Approximately 2,500 recipients, including 930 victims of the 2005 hurricanes, have appealed their debt notices. FEMA says about 30 percent of those appeals erased at least some of the debt. Recipients also can ask for a waiver due to economic hardship or seek to set up a payment plan.

“It is important for any individual who has received a recoupment notice to know that these letters are the start of a conversation with FEMA, not the end,” Racusen said.
This isn’t the first time Bel­linger has tangled with FEMA over funds he received to pay for renting an apartment in Atlanta. He was a plaintiff in a class action over the agency’s decision to end housing subsidies for storm victims and its efforts to recover alleged overpayments. FEMA later paid more than $2.6 million to settle the claims.

That case had also delayed the debt-collection process that Bel­linger and other storm victims are now facing. Before the settlement, a  federal judge in New Orleans ordered FEMA to suspend the effort in 2007 while it drew up new guidelines for the recoupment process. FEMA reinstituted the process last year.

“What a way to celebrate Christmas, knowing I’ve got another FEMA battle on my hands,” Bel­linger said.
After Bellinger moved to Atlanta, the Department of Housing and Urban Development covered some but not all of his rent. He says he relied on FEMA’s aid to make up the difference. FEMA claims he received a duplication of benefits, but Bellinger said the agency is mistaken.

“The fault is theirs, not mine, and they have to suffer the consequences,” he said. “I submitted everything they required. As far as I know, I did nothing wrong.”

Lubertha Haskin, a Gulfport, Miss., resident who turned 80 on Dec. 27, received about $8,000 from FEMA to repair some of Katrina’s damage to her home and to replace belongings. In October, FEMA sent her a debt letter that said her insurer had covered the same costs, a claim Haskin denies.

Haskin said she hadn’t heard from the agency in five years and never suspected she might have to pay back the money.

“I was knocked for a loop,” she said. “I don’t have that kind of money. I have a lot of doctors’ bills and other bills to pay.”

Law firms and legal aid groups have volunteered to help Haskin, Bellinger and many others challenge FEMA’s recoupment efforts.

“It’s really unfair that the government waited this long to come after this lady,” said Haskin’s attorney, Beau Cole. “They didn’t deliberately do it, but the effect is the same.”

The New Orleans office of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, which offers free legal aid, has fielded more than 100 calls since September from people who want to challenge their FEMA recoupment letter. Rowena Jones, a lawyer for the group, said she hasn’t seen the appeals process yield any “actual results.”

“Our clients just don’t seem to be getting a fair opportunity to contest the notices and get a hearing on it,” she said.

The provision signed into law Dec. 23 allows FEMA to waive the debt for somebody who earns less than $90,000 a year if the money was mistakenly awarded due to FEMA error. A debt involving fraud cannot be waived. Racusen said FEMA is “committed to applying the law to the fullest extent possible.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the recoupment process is flawed. Many debt letters have been returned as “undeliverable,” meaning some people have moved and don’t even know they owe money, he said.

“Most of these individuals went through a lot of trauma,” Thompson said. “For our government to all of a sudden say, ‘We made a mistake, you owe us money,’ that’s not how it should be done.”

— Associated Press