by Hilary O. Shelton, director, NAACP Washington Bureau
Four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast region, there are still numerous unmet needs and challenges facing the residents of that area every day. Especially hard hit by the hurricanes were low-income and racial and ethnic minority Americans, and they continue to suffer disproportionately.
According to a recent survey, 4 in 10 New Orleans residents say their lives are still disrupted by the aftermath of the Hurricane, and more than 7 in 10 see little or no progress in making housing affordable or in controlling crime, which they view as the city’s top problem. A majority of the people surveyed also see little or no progress in making medical services available, strengthening public schools, attracting jobs or rebuilding neighborhoods.
A second survey, also released in early August of this year, found tens of thousands of blighted properties, a lack of affordable housing and thin public services continue to plague the city. Rents are 46 percent higher than before the storm. Perhaps most tragically, most of the New Orleans residents who responded to the survey felt that both Washington and the American public have largely forgotten them.
We need to show the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region that the American public has not forgotten them; it is not too late to implement a plan that will help the region and most importantly the people who live there get back to their pre-Katrina way of life and to put safeguards in place against future calamities.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California has introduced H.R. 2269, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act. This legislation would provide federal money to employ a minimum of 100,000 Gulf Coast residents who would work on projects to rebuild, sustain and develop the Gulf Coast region. Also recognizing the relationship between disasters, environmental degradation and climate change, it encourages green jobs in energy efficiency, green building and environmental restoration focusing on restoring natural flood protection like wetlands and barrier islands.
Congress needs to take action now and reassure the people of the Gulf Region, as well as the rest of America, that we as a Nation do care. Congress should pass H.R. 2269 as soon as possible.
Call your congressional representatives today through the Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121.