Six Months After Katrina, New Report Shows Poor Still Being Left Behind

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On the six month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we get a report from Oxfam America on the recovery of the Gulf States. Oxfam director says, “Despite critical reports and investigative hearings of government failures, despite the flurry of commitments to confront poverty in the U.S.–six months after Katrina, little has changed.” [includes rush transcript]

Today is the six-month anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake. Nearly 2,000 people are reportedly still missing in Louisiana alone and more than 130 are children. And as this week’s Mardi Gras celebrations crowd the streets of New Orleans–at more than half the numbers as usual–whole neighborhoods remain obliterated.

Officials say hundreds of billions of dollars are still needed to meet long-term needs in rebuilding the Gulf region and aiding residents. The Washington Post reports that more than $2 billion has been dispensed to residents to pay for immediate needs, such as food, water, medical supplies and emergency housing, but that donations are dwindling.

New Orleans is scheduled to hold a primary election in April. A federal judge has ruled against a request for the state of Louisiana to create out-of-state satellite polling places for evacuees temporarily living outside of Louisiana.

And then there is the issue of housing. For those in more than 7,000 Louisiana and Mississippi hotels, FEMA last week extended the deadline for direct hotel payments to March 15. The expiration date is still March 1st for evacuees living in about 3,000 FEMA — sponsored hotel rooms outside the two states and emergency shelters on cruise ships.

A new report titled “Recovering States: the Gulf Coast Six Months after the Storm” has just been released by Oxfam America. It focuses on how poorer communities of both Louisiana and Mississippi are being overlooked and calls for more funds to be channeled into available housing for the lowest income communities. Oxfam America Director Minor Sinclair says, “Despite critical reports and investigative hearings of government failures, despite the flurry of commitments to confront poverty in the U.S.–six months after Katrina, little has changed.”

  • Minor Sinclair, Director of U.S. regional programs for Oxfam America.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined on the phone by Minor Sinclair. Welcome to Democracy Now!

MINOR SINCLAIR: Good morning Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you summarize your findings?

MINOR SINCLAIR: Yes. I mean, it reads like the Congo. Three quarters of a million people still displaced. The 300,000 homes that had been destroyed. I was there just a couple of weeks ago, you know, the rubble is still in the lots people are living in tents in the lots without food., and without water and without access to toilets. And with so much of the money getting poured into the direct relief efforts, i.e. putting people up in shelters and in hotels. And that deadline is hitting us. Where are people going to go?

New Orleans is now a quarter of the size it was before the storm. It has become a majority white population when it was a majority African-American population before. And the lowest communities, communities of color, the —- the people who have been chronically left behind by this—- in the historical past of the United States are being left behind in the recovery efforts, too.

Let me give you an example. Of the 300,000 homes that are destroyed, 45% were occupied by renters. There’s no assistance going in to help rebuild affordable housing, low-income housing for the people renting. And disproportionately renters are poor African-American and with little of their own access to private means or credit. The money that is going in is needed for infrastructure, to rebuild homes, to revitalize the economy. But it is not — it is clearly not enough and the money needs to be targeted towards hitting the people that are most vulnerable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for that summary. Of, course we’ll continue to follow what is happening.

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