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Hurricane Katrina: Two Years Later

Population

  • The population of New Orleans has reached 66 percent of its pre-Katrina level - up from 50 percent a year ago.  The population of the entire metropolitan area is at 83 percent of its pre-Katrina level.  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)  The population of Biloxi, MS has now reached 85% of its pre-Katrina population.  (New York Times, 7/16/07)
  • 'The population recovery is mixed across the region.  In St. Bernard Parish, just 36 percent of the pre-Katrina population is living in this hard-hit community nearly two years after the levee failures.  On the other hand, St. Tammany has experienced a slight gain in new residents since the hurricane.'  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)

Housing

  • 'The housing response to recovery has been uneven, with the pace of demolitions and new housing construction approvals increasing in the past year, but the overall rate of Road Home closings, and level of benefits, remaining small.'  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)
  • As of August 6, 2007, only 22 percent of total applicants to the Road Home program, Louisiana's homeowners' assistance program, had gone to closing and received their money.  Specifically, as of August 6, 180,424 Road Home applications had been received - far higher than the 123,000 the program was originally designed for.  Of these, only 40,130 had gone to closing and received their money.  The remaining 140,294 applicants are still waiting. (Brookings Institution, 8/07)
  • Now, about 1,250 public housing units in New Orleans are occupied.  Before the storm, about 5,150 public housing units were occupied.  (Houston Chronicle, 3/15/2007)

FEMA Trailers

  • As of April 2007, there are still 4,525 FEMA mobile homes and 51,173 FEMA trailers being occupied in Louisiana, nearly two years after the hurricane.  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)
  • Residents of FEMA trailers began complaining of formaldehyde fumes in March of 2006; it was not until July of 2007 that FEMA acknowledged that it has been aware all along of the potentially cancer-causing fumes in more than 120,000 mobile homes and trailers.  Communications uncovered by the House Oversight Committee reveal that FEMA deliberately did not investigate the problem when the claims came in. (New York Times, 7/20/07)
    • July, 2006: 'Air quality tests of 44 FEMA trailers conducted by the Sierra Club since April have found formaldehyde concentrations as high as 0.34 parts per million--a level nearly equal to what a professional embalmer would be exposed to on the job' (MSNBC)
    • July, 2007: FEMA Administrator Dave Paulison says 'We were not formaldehyde experts.  We recognize now that we have an issue.' (New York Times)

Health Care

  • In New Orleans, only one of the city's seven general hospitals is operating at its pre-hurricane level; two more are partially open; and four remain closed.  The number of hospital beds in New Orleans has dropped by two-thirds.  In the suburbs, half a dozen hospitals in adjacent Jefferson Parish are open - but are packed. (New York Times, 7/24/07)
  • The mortality rate of New Orleans has increased by nearly 50% since Hurricane Katrina, largely because patients can't get primary care for long-term conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Widespread anxiety and depression are untreated as there is a complete lack of mental health care capacity in the region. (Testimony of Thomas Koehl, head of free medical and dental clinic in New Orleans, before Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, 3/13/07)

Education

  • There are only 58 public schools now open in New Orleans.  By contrast, pre-Katrina, there were 128 public schools in New Orleans.  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)
  • Since Katrina, New Orleans public schools have experienced dramatic reforms.  Of the 58 public schools that are now open, 25 of them are new charter schools, which are run by the state-run 'Recovery School District.'  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)  
  • Since Katrina, the New Orleans school district has incurred an estimated $60 million in debt but has received only $9 million in reimbursements.
  • As many as 750 to 1,000 of the children currently enrolled in New Orleans public schools are estimated to be homeless. 

Public Transportation

  • In New Orleans, 50 percent of pre-Katrina bus routes are operational, but only 19 percent of buses are in use.  (Brookings Institution, 8/07)

Churches

  • Of the estimated 1,500 churches in New Orleans, about 57 percent are meeting today (compared with 47 percent at this time last year).  About 50 percent of the churches are meeting in St. Bernard Parish, and about 60 percent are meeting in Plaquemines Parish.  Many have less than two-thirds of their pre-storm congregations. (Times-Picayune, 7/31/07)


Sewage and Water

  • The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board reports that its highly damaged system is losing up to 50 million gallons of water a day due to leakages and failures; they fear that if this continues, the resulting drop in pressure will cause sewage to back-up into the drinking water supply.  Contributors to the erosion of the system include the force of the water from the storm surge, corrosive effects of salt water, and prolonged vibrations from above-ground construction efforts. (Associated Press, 8/7/07)


Small Business Administration

  • The Small Business Administration did not get through the 420,000 SBA disaster loan applications submitted by small businesses and homeowners after Hurricane Katrina until May of 2007. (Fortune Small Business, 8/7/07)
  • 'The Small Business Administration, which runs the federal government's largest program to help disaster victims rebuild their homes, improperly canceled thousands of loans it had promised homeowners along the Gulf Coast after the 2005 hurricanes, a government audit has found. ... The loans were canceled last year, after the agency had come under fire for being slow to give out rebuilding money, according to the audit.  Former agency employees have complained that they were pressured to withdraw the loans to cut the number of applicants whose loans had been approved but not paid out.' (New York Times, 7/25/07)


Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

  • A Congressional hearing in May 2006 found massive fraud, pervasive mismanagement, and gross incompetence in Katrina contracts.  (Statement of Rep. Henry Waxman, 5/4/06).  According to a March, 2007 GAO study, FEMA has continued along this path, making up to $1.4 billion in fraudulent and wasteful payments.  (GAO, 3/2007)
  • The House Small Business Committee found that six Federal agencies have diverted contracts away from local Gulf Coast small businesses - actually taking $55 million worth of contracts away from these local businesses since April 2007.  In addition, the agencies have awarded $100 million in contracts to ineligible firms--large corporations or non-local businesses. (Statement of Rep. Nydia Velazquez, 8/2/2007).


Flood Protection

  • President Bush has threatened to veto the Water Resources Development Act--the nation's first reinvestment in water infrastructure in years--which contains critical projects for the Gulf Coast.  On August 1, the House adopted the a conference report on the bill, which authorizes massive flood-protection plans--including new comprehensive flood protection infrastructure as well as strategic improvements, and in one case closure, of certain channels--for southeastern Louisiana, as well as nearly $2 billion in coastal restoration. (AP, 8/2/2007)
  • The Army Corps of Engineers released flood maps in June that reveal extensive risk until at least 2011, when the flood protection system is expected to reach 100-year protection level.  As of now, there is a one-in-one hundred chance that one-third of the city will be under up to six feet of water this hurricane season. (New York Times, 7/11/07).