I'll never forget Hurricane Katrina -- the mix of a natural and a man-made catastrophe that resulted in the death of over 1,500 of our neighbors. Millions of folks were marked by the tragedy. On this sixth anniversary, I'm sending my heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those still struggling to rebuild -- financially, emotionally, and structurally -- from the storm.
In the weeks and months after Katrina, many predicted that New Orleans would never recover. Naysayers predicted our city's best days were over. We knew better. We knew the difference between being buried and being planted to grow again. Six years later, New Orleans is once again, welcoming millions of visitors per year. The number of annual visitors was 8.3 million in 2010. Our population is growing, our unemployment rate is below the national average, and our schools and student are receiving resources they so desperately need. We're on the mend, but we still have more to do.
I'm proud that we've improved our emergency communication, evacuation procedures, and levee construction but there is still work to be done in securing our city from the threat of storms. Our wetlands are the first line of protection against a future hurricane and more work remains in fortifying these defenses.
In D.C., I've passed amendments to allocate $6.3 million to keep our waterways open for business, $1 million as a down payment on our wetland restoration -- our natural storm protection -- and $5 million to ensure that drilling permits are reviewed thoroughly and efficiently. I've introduced eight bills to fight for support for our small businesses and ensure we get funding to rebuild public housing -- among other things. Know that as you work to rebuild here at home, I'm fighting to get you the resources you need in D.C..
These past years, as we have been recovering and given our city a rebirth, we have been encouraged by our faith, knowledge, and steadfast belief that we will pull through. There will be challenges and setbacks, as there have already been, but we will continue, and we the citizens of New Orleans will prevail in bringing our city back.