A Second Disaster: Continued Displacement after Katrina

Fifteen months after Hurricane Katrina, the efforts to overcome the storm’s destruction and dislocation are still slow, inconsistent, and incompetent. Reports from November and December 2006 paint a picture that can only be classified as an ongoing disaster:

  • Especially for evacuees who remain displaced from their ruined homes, life remains capricious. More than 100,000 families continue to live in FEMA trailers. Five trailers parks at the Baton Rouge airport are to be shut down in 2007, and their inhabitants—some 600 families—do not know where they will end up. Another 33,000 families are living in apartments paid for by FEMA. But the rental assistance has been marked by confusion and uncertainty. Thousands of displaced families were cut off from FEMA aid until a federal judge ordered the agency to resume rent assistance.
  • As the New York Times editorialized, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “has whipsawed the survivors and their host communities with unpredictable policy changes that have hindered the resettlement process and kept everyone on edge.” This sentiment was echoed by Federal Judge Richard Leon when he ruled that FEMA’s aid application process was convoluted to the point of representing an unconstitutional denial of housing aid to thousands of survivors.
  • Meanwhile, the $7.5 billion program to help Louisiana residents repair or replace their flooded houses is stalled. The “Road Home” Program offers grants of up to $150,000 for uninsured losses. Yet as of early November 2006, virtually none of the 79,000 families applying for aid had received any money.
  • Private insurance companies have been dragging their feet on paying any claims by home owners for Katrina flood damage. Federal Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. ruled in November that the companies should pay, but an expected appeal of the decision is likely to mean that a final ruling could be months or years away.