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Trump’s FEMA unprepared for hurricane season as pool of volunteers depleted by COVID-19 crisis: report

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The longterm effects of the coronavirus pandemic that has afflicted over 1.6 million Americans and led to over 95,000 deaths is going to have a ripple effect on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which is facing a shortage of trained personnel and looking at a drastic shortage of volunteers as the country prepares for hurricane season and other disasters.

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According to a report in the New York Times, FEMA officials are looking at old procedures, such as housing disaster victims in large gymnasiums, is no longer going to work with pandemic continuing with no end in sight.

More importantly the agency depends on volunteers and the pool will be excruciatingly small this year.

The report begins, “For decades, the backbone of the nation’s disaster response system — and a hallmark of American generosity — has been its army of volunteers who race toward danger to help shelter, feed and counsel victims of hurricanes, wildfires and other calamities,” before adding, “However, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a critical weakness in this system: Most volunteers are older people at higher risk from the virus, so this year they can’t participate in person. Typically more than five million volunteers work in disaster relief annually, said Greg Forrester, president of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, an association of nonprofit groups, but this year he expects the number to decline by 50 percent.”

“A pandemic complicates every aspect of disaster planning and response in a way that we have never experienced before,” explained Chris Currie, who leads the team at the nonpartisan GAO that looks at emergency management. “You’re only as good as the weakest link.”

“Volunteers are key to America’s disaster response, distributing supplies, clearing debris, and rebuilding homes. In interviews, executives with the nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army that help organize volunteer teams said that, in normal years, they would be training and equipping thousands of people and flying them to whichever part of the country needs help, then housing and feeding them in close quarters,” the report continued, noting the Salvation Army is already sending up a red flag.

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“Three-quarters of the Salvation Army’s volunteers for most disasters are 65 or older, according to Jeff Jellets, the group’s disaster coordinator for the southern United States.,” the Times reported, adding Jellets pointed out that older people are at high risk of COVID-19.

“We’re telling them, maybe this isn’t the best time for you to deploy,” he explained.

“The consequences could be enormous: The Salvation Army has more than 2.7 million volunteers annually for everything from disaster response to after-school programs and vocational programs. Disaster volunteers worked 3.5 million hours during the 2017 hurricane season,” the Times goes on to explain. “The Salvation Army is considering using more paid staff and housing them in hotels rather than dormitories. But that’s expensive, Mr. Jellets said, and the pandemic has closed the Salvation Army’s thrift stores, which bring in almost in $600 million annually in sales.”

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Habitat for Humanity also finds itself in the same boat, mainly relying on the elderly for help with Jonathan Reckford, the chief executive officer stating Habitat for Humanity is on hiatus right now when it comes to deploying volunteers.

“If a disaster struck a part of the country that was under large-scale quarantine, ‘we would really have to back away from some of our response in those areas,’ Mary Casey-Lockyer, a senior associate with the disaster health program for the American Red Cross, said during a webinar for nonprofits last week. The Red Cross deployed 9,000 workers to large disasters last year; it expects to deploy half as many volunteers as usual in person this year,” the Times reports.

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57 Buffalo cops resign to support suspended officers who pushed down elderly man

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The entire Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team -- a total of 57 officers -- has resigned from the team in support of the two officers who pushed 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground, seriously injuring him.

They are still employed, but no longer on ERT.

According to Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans, the cops who pushed Gugino down were just following orders.

“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” Evans, said in a statement.

This is a developing story. Check WIVB4 for updates.

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GOP official defends post blaming George Soros for ‘staged’ killing of George Floyd: I wanted to ‘get people to think for themselves’

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The chairman of the Harrison County Republican Party in Texas is under fire after he shared a conspiracy theory on his party's Facebook page claiming that the death of George Floyd "staged" by George Soros, CBS19 reports.

The post shared by Lee Lester was also previously shared by Bexar County GOP Chairwoman Cynthia Brehm -- which prompted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to call for her resignation.

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On the minds of Black Lives Matter protesters: A racist health system

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, when he decided to protest, William Smith, 27, used a red marker to write a message on the back of a flattened cardboard box: “Kill Racism, Not Me.”

As he stood alone, somber, he thought about George Floyd, a fellow black man whom he’d watched die on video as a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck eight days earlier. “Seeing the life leave his body was finally the last straw that broke the camel’s back for me,” he said.

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