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Remarks on Hurricane Katrina and introduction of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez - by Suzanne P. Clark

Sunday, September 11, 2005 - 8:00pm

Welcome and introduction by Suzanne Clark
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washington, D.C.
September 12, 2005

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the United States Chamber of Commerce. I'm Suzanne Clark, Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and President of the Center for Corporate Citizenship.

Hurricane Katrina was unusual, not only for its ferocity, but also because it was two tragedies in one: it was first a hurricane, followed by a flood - effecting urban and rural communities alike. Americans have not experienced anything like this in recollection.

Consequently, two weeks after Katrina made landfall, we are still struggling to come to grips with the destruction and loss of life it caused - and we will continue with this struggle for weeks, months, and even years.

It is during times like these that our nation's character is tested. The outpouring of generosity and compassion in response to this disaster has been truly remarkable.

Americans have opened their homes to dislocated families, offered food and supplies, and are on pace to donate more money than they gave even following 9/11.

American businesses, in particular, have been especially generous and were quick to help the victims in the hours and days immediately following the disaster.

Corporations are donating at a record pace. In fact, they have already donated more than $537 million in cash and in-kind contributions so far - and that figure is expected to climb to more than $1 billion, which would be the largest outpouring of corporate aid for a single event in history. More than 140 companies have contributed $1 million or more.

As emergency response and relief efforts continue, businesses are looking ahead and devoting resources to recovery, reconstruction, and mitigation. Success in these three key phases is critical for the long-term stability of the region.

The Chamber's Center for Corporate Citizenship, or CCC, has joined with businesses, chambers, agencies, and non-profit organizations to coordinate corporate America's response to Katrina.

Let me share with you just a few ways the Chamber is helping.

CCC has partnered with Aidmatrix to develop a product donation system available through the Web sites of both organizations.

This resource matches the requests for supplies we're receiving from local and state chambers in the Gulf Coast with donations from businesses around the country.

CCC and IBM have partnered to develop a job posting site for those whose jobs were lost because of Katrina. 10,000 Katrina-related jobless claims were filed in the first week following the disaster, and that number will swell into the hundreds of thousands.

CCC, with the U.S. Department of Education, is posting information on how to help displaced students continue their education.

It is assisting the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry in establishing a small business relief fund to help Gulf Coast small enterprises remain solvent.

And finally, CCC offers various businesses tips and best practices in preparation for and response to natural disasters.

Of course, CCC has worked closely with federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Secretary Gutierrez and two other Cabinet secretaries are just back from Houston, Baton Rouge, and Mobile, where they inspected relief facilities and recovery efforts and educated refugees about the availability of government benefits.