New Orleans, Four Years Later

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As we approach the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we’re sure to start seeing some brief nods toward the event in the mainstream media: photos of people stranded on rooftops and bridges, maybe some re-runs of Anderson Cooper’s on-air breakdown, along with a few heartwarming stories of survival and rescue to keep us from feeling too guilty about having abandoned an entire city of poor people to their fate.

What’s less likely to receive much coverage is the aftermath of the storm–the years of neglect, the government-approved corporate ripoffs, and the ongoing suffering that persists to this day. A concise reminder appeared today in the form of a “Katrina Pain Index” compiled by Davida Finger and Bill Quigley. (Now at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Quigley formerly ran the Loyola Law School legal clinic in New Orleans, and provided powerful reports from the disaster.) I’m quoting some highlights, but the list is well worth reading in full on Counterpunch:

0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant – compared to 116,708 homeowners….

1.  Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2008.

1.  Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of vacant residences.  

2.  Number of Katrina cottages completed in Louisiana as of beginning of 2009 hurricane season under $74 million dollar federal program.

33.  Percent of 134,000 FEMA trailers in which Katrina and Rita storm survivors were housed after the storms which are estimated by federal government to have had formaldehyde problems….

50.  Ranking of Louisiana among states for overall healthcare….

27,279. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding after Katrina who have been determined eligible for assistance but who have still not received any money.

30,396. Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans since Katrina.  This reduction leaves the New Orleans public school population just over half of what it was pre-Katrina.

63,799. Number of Medicaid recipients who have not returned to New Orleans since Katrina….

143,193. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center estimate of 311,853, the most recent population estimate in Orleans.  

9.5 Million.  Dollar amount of federal Medicaid stimulus rejected outright by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal which would have expanded temporary Medicaid coverage for families who leave welfare and get a job.  

98 million:  Dollar amount of unemployment federal stimulus dollars rejected by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal that was available to bolster the unemployment compensation funds to assist 25,000 families in Louisiana.

900 Million:  Dollar amount paid to ICF International, the company that was hired by the State of Louisiana to distribute federal Road Home rebuilding dollars….

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And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

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