Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Katrina still hurting

The gap between rich and poor in New Orleans is massive, the largest in the country despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina.  Poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans got very little of that help. Child poverty is up, double the national average. Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans, got very little of that help.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reported that 62 percent of pre-Katrina service has been restored. But Ride New Orleans, a transit rider organization, says streetcar rides targeted at tourists are fully restored, but bus service for regular people is way down, still only at 35 percent of what it was before Katrina. That may explain why there has been a big dip in the number of people using public transportation in New Orleans, down from 13 percent in 2000 to 9 percent now.

Over two of every five children in New Orleans lives in poverty—about double the national rate. The current rate of 44 percent is up 3 percentage points from 1999 and up 12 points from 2007. Overall, there are 50,000 fewer children under the age of 18 living in New Orleans than there were in 2000. In 2000 there were 129,408, and the latest numbers have dropped to 79,432 according to the census figures reported by the Data Center.  

Since Katrina, home values have risen 54 percent and rent is up 50 percent. The annual household income needed to afford rent in New Orleans is $38,000, but 71 percent of workers earn on average $35,000. The average yearly income for service workers is $23,000 and only $10,000 for musicians. New Orleans has only 47 affordable rental units for every 100 low-income residents. Thirty-seven percent of households in the city are paying half of their income for housing, which is much higher than recommended. 36 percent of renters pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing, up from 24 percent in 2004. The New Orleans metro area ranks second in the top 10 worst metro areas for cash-strapped renters, according to the Make Room Initiative. Government leaders bulldozed over 3,000 apartments of occupied public housing right after Katrina but now say there is a critical immediate need for at least 5,000 affordable low-income apartments.

Ninety-three percent of New Orleans’ 48,000 public school students are in charter schools, the highest percentage in the U.S. Before Katrina, there were over 65,000 students enrolled in New Orleans public schools, less than 1 percent in charter schools. There are now 44 governing bodies for public schools in New Orleans. There are seven types of charter schools in Louisiana. The public schools are 87 percent African American. Widespread charter school problems for students with disabilities are getting a little bit better according to a federal court monitor report. The public has very mixed feelings about the system reflected in the most recent poll, which shows 43 percent of whites think the schools are getting better, compared to 31 percent of African Americans; while 23 percent of African Americans thought schools were getting worse, in contrast to 15 percent of whites.  

Black median income in New Orleans rose from $23,000 in 2005 to $25,000 eight years later, while white median income rose by $11,000 from $49,000 to $60,000 during the same time.

Over 64,000 working women in New Orleans earn less than $17,500 per year. One source of good jobs, working for the school board, was eliminated when 7,500 employees were terminated right after Katrina.  

The U.S. Department of Justice reported Louisiana has 2.8 million people in its criminal database. There are 4.6 million people in Louisiana.

Louisiana continues to rank last in poverty, racial disparities and exclusion of immigrants. But New Orleans has plenty of wealthy people; in fact, Bloomberg ranked New Orleans the worst in the entire country in income inequality. Louisiana also ranks last in national rankings of the quality and safety of school systems. Louisiana incarcerates more of its citizens than any of the other 50 states at a rate double the national average. And Louisiana has the highest health-care costs because of high rates of premature deaths, diabetes, and obesity. In a welcome but too rare piece of good health news, Louisiana’s new governor expanded Medicaid coverage and enrolled 250,000 additional people in the health-care program in July 2016. 

$76 billion came to Louisiana because of Katrina. This information makes it clear who did not get the money.


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