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WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of supermarket operators recovering from Hurricane Katrina need immediate help to prepare their stores for the return of families who had evacuated their communities, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) here said yesterday.
The trade group mad the statement in response to requests from Congress and the Department of Homeland Security for disaster relief recommendations. "These Americans deserve clean, safe, and abundant food on day one when they return -- particularly after all they've been through," said FMI president and c.e.o. Tim Hammonds.
Helping small, family-owned businesses is especially critical since their operations may be concentrated in the hardest-hit areas, Hammonds said.
FMI provided Congress a comprehensive list of industry needs. It said the most important immediate requests were:
-- Restore communications so retailers can accept food stamps, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program vouchers and other government benefits.
-- Dispense the necessary inoculations, vaccines, and boosters to food industry employees in infected disaster areas.
-- Expedite the removal of debris, and provide security for employees and shoppers in stores and along distribution routes.
-- Allocate fuel to supermarkets and wholesalers on a priority basis to ensure that food and other essential goods are delivered quickly to stores in disaster relief areas.
-- Offer incentives for companies to hire displaced workers, including the newly homeless and people without verifiable paperwork.