Katrina: Protecting Victims from Price Gouging and Bankruptcy

The devastation along the Gulf Coast caused by Katrina and the ripple effects throughout the entire nation are tragic beyond description. What we are witnessing in Louisiana and Mississippi is the truism that when disaster strikes, the gap between rich and poor becomes a chasm. In today's lagging economy, far too many hardworking Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, just barely getting by. In that tenuous financial condition, many families are only one tragedy away from being devastated by debt. Many of the families who have now lost their homes, livelihoods, and personal possessions will soon be contacted by credit collection agencies demanding the next minimum payment on a credit card.

Other families are being struck by outrageous price gouging that has no place in our society. Because of my concerns regarding the financial hardship of the Hurricane, I am taking several actions. First, I have asked the Federal Trade Commission to study price gouging in the gasoline market. While nothing the rest of us are experiencing can compare to the suffering of those directly impacted by Katrina, I am also deeply concerned that corporate interests may be taking advantage of this tragedy and price gouging consumers when they fill up their gas tanks. Already, there are reports of gas prices over $4 a gallon and prices rising as much as 88 cents in one day.

Letter to the FTC:

as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, I plan to introduce legislation explicitly giving the federal government authority to pursue such price gouging actions -- price gouging is a national problem, and it warrants a national response.Third, I am introducing a law to amend the Bankruptcy Code so that the most onerous provisions of the new law, scheduled to take effect October 17, do not inflict damage on the millions of victims of Hurricane Katrina and their families.

Bankruptcy Coverage:

I believe the federal government can and must do more to alleviate the hardship caused by Hurricane Katrina.Astonishingly, FEMA deputy director, Patrick Rhode, described federal relief efforts as "probably" one the most efficient and effective responses in the country's history. Anyone who has watched the news coverage would be hard-pressed to agree. Trying to coordinate support activities, the director of Homeland Security in New Orleans, Col. Terry Ebbert, has been distraught by the lack of federal assistance, noting, "it's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane." Our nation can and must do better.

John Conyers, Jr.

Informant: Hopedance


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September 2005

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