The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Examining Disaster

by Catherine Komp

Research and Resources on Hurricane Katrina's Impact

This sidebar is associated with a full-length feature article, Weathered Voices: Stories of Struggle Through the Voices of Survivors .

Numerous reports detailing the aftermath of hurricane Katrina have been released in anticipation of the first anniversary of the storm. They cover housing, working conditions, institutional racism, federal mismanagement of disaster response and reconstruction, and much more. As a service to our readers, The NewStandard has reviewed a selection of these reports and compiled them in one place for easy perusal.

'Housing in New Orleans: One Year After Katrina'

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Prepared by the NAACP, The Opportunity Agenda and Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute, this report, released August 27, assesses the affordable housing crisis in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina and offers recommendations for reform. Emphasizing that access to housing is essential to the health and well-being of individuals and the community, the report’s authors state that "the natural disaster of Katrina uncovered and exacerbated existing man-made threats to fair and affordable housing, which have been created by specific policy decisions and years of neglect." The 30-page report offers immediate and long-term policy changes that the authors say would help foster a more equitable, effective and efficient housing reconstruction process. 

'Profiting from Disaster: Fraud, scandal and greed has crippled the Gulf recovery – but made some very rich'

The Institute for Southern Studies released a 96-page report on August 23 that analyzes over 200 statistical indicators in thirteen major issue areas, including demographics, housing, economy, schools, healthcare, arts and hurricane readiness. It follows another report, "The Mardi Gras Index," released by the same group at the six-month anniversary of the storm. Report authors say the new research presents "unavoidable and devastating" conclusions about the reconstruction progress: lack of housing and aid for housing has kept tens of thousands from returning home, Gulf communities are still coated with toxins and chemicals that threaten people’s health and ability to return, only half of the city’s 117 public schools are scheduled to reopen this fall, and contracting scandals have squandered much needed finances for rebuilding.

'And Injustice for All: Workers' Lives in the Reconstruction of New Orleans'

The Advancement Project, the New Orleans Worker Justice Coalition and the National Immigration Law Center call their 80-page July report "the most comprehensive documentation of post-Katrina worker conditions to date." Researchers conducted more than 700 interviews with workers who relayed accounts of "personal plight" and exposed the "institutional actors [that] shaped the post-Katrina landscape and placed workers in situations of disadvantage and inequity." The report looks at both the large number of black workers that lost jobs post-Katrina and the large number of immigrant workers lured to the area by false promises of good jobs and wages. Researchers say both demographics experience similar circumstances that drive individuals deeper into poverty: unsafe working conditions, bad pay and lack of affordable housing, all of which reveal the "structural racism" in the US.

'One Year After Katrina'

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour released a 46-page report post-dated August 29, the anniversary of Katrina, that reviews housing; recovery planning; public infrastructure; economic development, environmental restoration; and the role of non-profits, local government and the private sector in preparedness and recovery efforts. The report outlines "accomplishments," including the reopening of all but one school district 10 weeks after Katrina struck, and assesses "the work that remains to be done," including transitioning residents from temporary to permanent housing.

'Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Hurricane Katrina Contracts'

At the requests of six Democratic congress members, the Committee on Government Reform compiled a 22-page report on waste, mismanagement and abuse in 19 federal Katrina contracts collectively worth $8.75 billion. The report states that the same companies involved in the abuses continue to receive millions in federal contracts, indicating that "federal officials may repeat many of the same mistakes in responding to future disasters." Key findings include: full and open competition for contracts is "the exception, not the rule;" contact mismanagement is widespread from planning through oversight stages; and subcontracting is excessive and inflates costs to taxpayers.

'Katrina and the Common Good'

The Center for American Progress issued an 8-page recommendation for disaster response reform on August 25. The group lists eight progressive principles as guides for future preparedness and recovery efforts, including the right of displaced citizens to return home. Writing that the federal government’s response to Katrina was "profoundly disturbing," the Center says the government needs to invest more in emergency planning and streamlining federal and state relief benefits, amongst other health care and housing recommendations. The group also makes recommendations to curb corruption and scandals including establishing an independent commission to ensure disaster funds are not abused. The Center notes that despite the failed government response, grassroots efforts have been "the lifeblood of neighborhoods" across the Gulf region.

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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