NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE’S MORIAL TO LEADERS IN IDA-HIT REGIONS: “WE ARE NOT TRAPPED TO REPEAT THE SINS OF KATRINA RECOVERY”
Destroyed homes and businesses are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on Grand Isle, Louisiana, on August 31.Gerald Herbert/AP
Ida Recovery Effort Must Be Grounded in Equity and Racial Justice
NEW YORK (September 9, 2021) -- National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial has urged state and local elected officials in areas battered by Hurricane Ida to ground their recovery efforts in equity and racial justice, and avoid the missteps that hindered recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005
“We are not trapped to repeat the sins of the decade-plus recovery from Katrina,” Morial wrote in a letter to the governors of Louisiana, New York and New Jersey, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and presidents of the Louisiana parishes of Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Joh, St. James, Terrebonne, and Lafourche. “We are not required to continue policies that, since Katrina, have led to inequitable recovery for Black families and unequal opportunities for Black businesses to thrive and contribute to the recoveries across all communities.”
A recent FEMA Advisory Committee Report, based on a Rice University study, found that federal recovery funding after a disaster disproportionally benefits white entrepreneurs. When major disasters strike and significant federal resources are invested, there is an increase in white net worth and a corresponding decrease in net worth for Black people.
“You have the power to make sure that, while Ida did hit on Katrina’s anniversary, the recovery in no way resembles the slow, inequitable, and imbalanced recovery in Louisiana; a recovery that has left many white neighborhoods thriving and white-owned businesses expanding and left too many Black communities behind,” Morial told the officials.
Morial outlined the following recommendations to “level the playing field and contribute to a recovery we can all be proud of:”
1. Make the earliest funding for impacted citizens truly and equally available. Due to FEMA’s application and compensation process, Black families often receive fewer funds. To remedy this injustice, FEMA damage assessments should no longer be done solely in-person or over-the-phone, but with the flyover and digital imagery technology used by insurance companies. Not only would this save time and money, but it would also strip unconscious bias from the process and lead to equitable and accurate compensation. Furthermore, because of decades of redlining and racial bias in home appraisals, FEMA should prohibit appraised home values from being used to determine compensation.
2. Improve the timeliness and methodology for Community Development Block Grant funding. A year after funding that drives most post-disaster residential recovery. Congress still has not allocated any funding for recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and other storms that devastated American communities last year. The process is much more efficient in states that reimburse homeowners for CDBG-eligible rebuilding work. A Recovery Acceleration Fund model would make the reimbursement pathway accessible to all CDBG-qualifying homeowners.
3. The billions of dollars that will be invested into the region must be made available to Black-owned businesses. The labyrinth of paperwork, onerous requirements and high costs effectively screen out small and mid-sized Black businesses in the very communities that are impacted. When and where large contracts are deployed, they must be held accountable to ensure they provide sub-contract opportunities for Black-owned businesses in a real and meaningful way.
“There is generational and life-altering impact when recoveries don’t work and are not equitable. Since COVID, the importance of home has been reinforced for all of us, Morial wrote. “I ask you to work with the National Urban League and our local Affiliates, and partners to ensure that the recommendations above, and others, are implemented so the recovery from Ida is the type of recovery any of us would want if our loved ones were impacted.”
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Photo Courtesy Contact: Vox / Gerald Herbert/AP