Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Disaster Recovery prepares for long-term response with little funding

9/6/2019

Children and leaders from Tulsa-Faith brought donated flood buckets to the Oklahoma United Methodist Ministry Center on July 30. Photo by Meagan Ewton.
The Office of Mission is working to address the needs of Oklahomans affected by the spring weather events that caused near-record flooding across the state.

Rev. Jeremy Basset, director of the Oklahoma Conference Office of Mission, said he anticipates 600-700 disaster recovery cases–enough to need 25-30 case managers–but the grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency only provided enough funding for eight. He compared the figures to the tornadoes in Moore in 2013, which resulted in 800 cases.

“In Moore, we had millions at our disposal, but today the same grant is only offering $350,000,” Basset said. “The only money that will make this happen is money we raise here in Oklahoma.”

One aspect of the funding challenge is that FEMA and the Red Cross are holding back their disaster recovery funds for hurricane and tornado season. Another aspect is a lower rate of giving from churches to Conference and denominational ministries.

The Conference treasurer’s report from August 2019 states that connectional giving as of July 31 is 4.39 percent behind where collections were at the same time in 2018. Giving to Mission and Ministries, which help fund disaster recovery through the Office of Mission, is lagging behind receipts for apportionments.

Basset said the United Methodist Committee on Relief is facing a similar challenge, describing their giving as “millions off from last year.” He believes uncertainty about the denomination’s future in the wake of General Conference is one of the factors impacting missional giving.

“We’re scrambling to find a way to meet the need,” Basset said.

In spite of the challenges, the office continues to remain committed to long-term recovery. As of July 15, Rev. Becky Pierson was appointed to the Office of Mission as Long-Term Recovery Manager based in Tulsa. She will help oversee the project management, volunteer management and case management work with additional staff appointed as funding becomes available.

“It’s a huge need, but it’s without funding,” Basset said. “All of this affects our ability to help the most vulnerable. It stinks.”

 

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