Six years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast. The impact of Katrina and government bungling continue to inflict major pain on the people left behind. It is impossible to understand what happened and what still remains without considering race, gender and poverty. The following offer some hints of what remains.
$62 million: The amount of money that the State of Louisiana and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to pay thousands of homeowners because of racial discrimination in Louisiana's program to disburse federal rebuilding funds following Katrina and Rita. African-American homeowners were more likely than whites to have their rebuilding grants based on much lower pre-storm value of their homes rather than the higher estimated cost to rebuild them.
154,000: FEMA is now reviewing the grants it gave to 154,000 people following hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. It is now demanding that some return the long ago spent funds! FEMA admits that many of the cases under review stem from mistakes made by its own agency employees. FEMA's error rate following Katrina was 14.5 percent.
65,423: In the New Orleans metropolitan area, there are now 65,423 fewer African-American women and girls than when Katrina hit. Overall, the number of women and girls decreased since Katrina by 108,116.
47,738: Number of vacant houses in New Orleans as of 2010.
3,000: Over 3,000 public housing apartments occupied before Katrina plus another 1,000 under renovation were bulldozed after Katrina. Less than 10 percent (238 families) have made it back into the apartments built on the renovated sites. Only half of the 3,000-plus families have even made it back to New Orleans at all. All were African-American.
75: Nearly 75 percent of the public schools in New Orleans have become charters since Katrina. Over 50 percent of public school students in New Orleans attend public charter schools. There are now more than 30 different charter school operators in New Orleans alone. According to the Institute on Race & Poverty of University of Minnesota Law School, "The reorganization of the city's schools has created a separate but unequal tiered system of schools that steers a minority of students, including virtually all of the city's white students, into a set of selective, higher-performing schools and another group, including most of the city's students of color, into a group of lower-performing schools."
70: Seventy percent more people are homeless in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. People living with HIV are estimated to be homeless at 10 times the rate of the general population, a condition amplified after Hurricane Katrina.
59: Less than 60 percent of Louisiana's public school students graduate from high school with their class. Among public school children with disabilities in New Orleans, the high school graduation rate is 6.8 percent.
34: Thirty-four percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty; the national average is 20 percent.
11: Eleven New Orleans police officers were convicted of or plead guilty to federal crimes involving shootings of civilians during Hurricane Katrina aftermath.
10: At least 10 people were killed by police under questionable circumstances during days after Katrina.
3: A three-fold increase in heart attacks was documented in the two years after Katrina.
Number unknown: The true impact of the BP oil spill in terms of adverse health effects is vast but unknown. Delays by the federal government in studying the spill's physical and mental health effects hinder any ability to understand these issues with accuracy. A year after the spill, more people are reporting medical and mental health problems.
This article was co-authored with Davida Finger, also a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.
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