Since taking office, President Obama has made it a key priority to continue and expedite the recovery and rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
Over the past six and a half years, the Administration has focused on supporting the needs of survivors and bolstering the recovery efforts already underway by state, local and federal officials by cutting red tape to deploy important resources quickly, investing in hard hit communities, and ensuring that affected communities build back stronger and more resilient.
The President has directed his Administration to take an all-of-Nation approach – to work closely with and support the work of all of our partners, including state and local governments, tribal and volunteer organizations, the private sector, and families.
As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the storm, the Administration will continue its all-of-Nation approach, with the President and members of his cabinet planning to visit impacted areas to highlight some of the many remarkable recovery and resilience stories across the region.
- On Thursday, August 27th, the President will travel to New Orleans to meet with the Mayor and residents – including youth — in several neighborhoods who have rebuilt their lives over the past 10 years. While in the city, the President will deliver remarks on the region’s rebirth and what’s possible when citizens, city and corporate leaders all work together to lift up their communities and build back in ways that make them more innovative and positioned for economic growth. The President will be joined by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, who has helped spearhead and coordinate many of the Administration’s efforts and this all-of-Nation approach over the past six and a half years.
- Administrator Fugate and other FEMA officials will be on the ground for commemoration events in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in the days leading up to the anniversary, with Administrator Fugate joining New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu for an event on August 25th to release the city’s resilience strategy, and traveling to Mississippi on August 26th to visit several schools that have rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina. On August 27th, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, whose agency has worked closely with state and local officials to move residents toward long term housing, will join a bipartisan group of elected officials for an event hosted by Sen. Cochran at the Port of Gulfport, and will then travel to New Orleans on August 28th for commemoration events. The Gulf Restoration Council, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Army, U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency, will host public meetings in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas as part of its ongoing efforts to restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region.
- U.S. Department of Education officials, who have worked closely with impacted school districts on education reform and rebuilding efforts, will visit New Orleans in the days leading up to the anniversary to participate in an Urban League of New Orleans town hall about public education and highlight the work of the New Orleans Recovery School District. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials, who have focused on strengthening public health and community health care options, will attend the grand opening celebration of the University Medical Center New Orleans.
- Throughout the week, Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps, will travel to the Mississippi communities of Waveland, Gulfport, and Biloxi as well as Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana to participate in events highlighting the critical efforts of service organizations, first responders, the higher education community, and key stakeholders who have invested in recovery efforts over the past 10 years. Since 2005, more than 40,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers have served 10 million hours in Katrina Response, and recruited and managed more than 650,000 volunteers. Working with local partners and elected officials, CNCS grantees will engage 11,000 volunteers in the Gulf Region directly related to the Katrina anniversary.
- On Friday, August 28 Shaun Donovan, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will tour the Louisiana coastline and receive a briefing on protection and restoration projects. He will also visit several New Orleans community development projects and resilience efforts and make remarks at a convening of national philanthropic, policy and community leaders. On Saturday, August 29 he will participate in a Katrina memorial commemorative wreath laying and participate in Day of Service events.
- Officials from the Small Business Administration, which has supported the recovery of small and medium size businesses, will partner with companies and local organizations in Louisiana to highlight small business preparedness efforts and lessons learned, and will join the City of New Orleans for day of service events across the region. Officials from the Department of Commerce – which has led efforts to support international trade and economic recovery in Louisiana – will partner with the Delta Regional Authority, Greater New Orleans, Inc., and other local organizations on Thursday, August 27 to provide a two-part event that will convene regional leaders to focus on how international trade is fueling economic growth in the region and provide a technical workshop to prepare area businesses for success in the global marketplace. And NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan will visit local businesses that have rebuilt to become more resilient to future events in Biloxi.
Below is additional information highlighting the Obama Administration’s post-Katrina recovery efforts:
Partnering with Gulf Coast States to Build Back Stronger and Safer: Ten years into the recovery, the Obama Administration continues to work side-by-side with state, local, and tribal partners to finish the job of rebuilding communities that are the economic engines and lifeblood of the Gulf Coast. Since 2009, FEMA has provided more than $5.2 billion to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for thousands of public works projects, including the repair and rebuilding of schools, hospitals, roads, police and fire stations, and historic buildings and museums. To protect against future catastrophic storms, FEMA is also working with states to help communities build back smarter and stronger than ever before. Since 2009, FEMA has delivered over $1.4 billion to Louisiana and Mississippi for 682 mitigation projects, including work to elevate homes and critical infrastructure, retrofit government and residential structures, and support a broad range of drainage improvement projects. For more information on FEMA’s ongoing commitment to the region, including an overview of FEMA’s enhanced abilities to help communities respond and recover from catastrophic disasters, visit: beta.fema.gov/katrina10
Unprecedented Focus on Restoring the Gulf Coast Economy and Ecosystem: Since 2009, the Obama Administration has been committed to fostering a stronger, healthier, and more resilient Gulf Coast region. Working with local residents, businesses, State and local officials, the Administration has developed a long-term strategy and inclusive framework to address the coastal resilience needs of the Gulf Coast region. The Administration has brought federal, state, and local government together to better align decision-making and resources initially with the development and release of the Roadmap for Restoring Ecosystem Resiliency and Sustainability in Louisiana and Mississippi, expanding efforts to all five Gulf Coast States through creation of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and building a lasting forum for collaboration with establishment of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, a new independent entity based in the Gulf Coast region. The Council recently announced $183 million in proposed restoration projects. The Administration has worked to hold BP accountable reaching the recent agreement in principle totaling approximately $18.7 billion for the gulf region, and potentially the largest settlement with an individual company in U.S. history. It includes investments of approximately $700 million in early restoration projects have been made through the Natural Resources Damage Assessment Trustee Council to restore the Gulf’s economy, fisheries, wetlands, water quality, and wildlife and bring lasting benefits to the region for generations to come.
Supporting Education and Strengthening Schools: The U.S. Department of Education has supported Katrina-affected areas in New Orleans and in Louisiana by investing over $100 million since 2009, in addition to formula grants given to Katrina-affected states. These funds have helped local leaders and educators to launch a new public education system in New Orleans, including retaining, developing and supporting great teachers and principals.
Creating Jobs and Economic Growth by Rebuilding Infrastructure: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has done tremendous work to rebuild, improve access to opportunity, and strengthen the economic competitiveness of communities in the Gulf Region. Earlier this year DOT released the U.S. DOT Gulf Coast Study which offers tools and lessons learned that transportation agencies across the country are using to assess vulnerabilities and build resilience to climate change to better prepare for natural disasters. In DOT’s effort to help rebuild, DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program has provided $115.6 million for nine projects since 2009 helping to create jobs, expand transit options, enhance bicycle/pedestrian safety and improve economic competitiveness at regional ports. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has provided nearly $1 million to promote workforce development and improve emergency preparedness in the New Orleans region. As part of DOT’s Ladders of Opportunity Initiative, Secretary Foxx launched the Ladders of Opportunity Transportation Empowerment Pilot (LadderSTEP) which provides technical assistance to help support revitalization efforts in seven cities across America. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many evacuees relocated to the city of Baton Rouge – one of the seven LadderSTEP pilot cities – which will receive assistance from FTA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as it plans a Nicholson Street Corridor streetcar line. Finally, earlier this year, Secretary Foxx introduced the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets which calls on Mayors across America to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in their communities. To date, more than 230 local mayors and elected officials have accepted the Mayors’ Challenge including New Orleans, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi.
Helping local governments and rescue personnel plan for severe weather events: In June 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the U.S. Department of Labor released a new set of BLS maps and tables showing employment, wages, and establishment counts in hurricane flood zones including the Gulf Coast. The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program has been producing maps of economic activity in disaster areas since 2001. Until now, maps like this were created after an event had already occurred. Now, BLS is providing information on the potential economic damage for businesses and jobs before a hurricane or other weather event approaches the U.S. coastline, using information maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These data are available to all, including emergency planners, first responders, and community aid groups. In addition, recognizing that severe weather often leads to power outages, which impact residents who rely on electrically powered medical equipment, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services developed an interactive GIS-based tool to aid local government and rescue personnel in planning. Every hospital, first responder, electric company, and community member can use the HHS emPOWER Map to find the monthly total of Medicare beneficiaries with electricity-dependent equipment claims at the U.S. state, territory, county, and zip code level and turn on “real-time” NOAA severe weather tracking services to identify areas and populations that may be impacted and at risk for power outages. This capability was first demonstrated in a pilot project with the New Orleans Department of Health.
Repairing and Rebuilding Homes: As part of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) deployed more than 40,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers, who in turn served more than 10 million hours through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the St. Bernard Project, Teach For America, and other nonprofits. These AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers have assisted more than 3 million Katrina survivors, including the rebuilding or repairing of more than 15,400 homes. More than one million volunteers served in the Gulf Coast, many of which were managed by AmeriCorps members – the largest volunteer response to a natural disaster in American history. In the last 10 years, CNCS has invested more than $333 million to support national service in Louisiana and Mississippi. Today, more than 9,500 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers serve at 1,000 locations in both states. National service grantees are working with local organizations to implement service projects commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; the projects are expected to engage more than 10,000 volunteers.
Restoring long-term housing options and ensuring affordable rent for low-income families: Over the last 10 years, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development investments have had a major impact on the recovery of the five-state Gulf region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Working closely with state disaster recovery leaders in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida, HUD has allocated nearly $20 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding. To date, these investments have contributed toward the long-term recovery of the region’s housing stock, economy, and infrastructure. In the aftermath of the storm, more than 82,000 families lived in HUD-assisted apartment buildings across the Gulf that suffered damage by Hurricane Katrina. Today, a remarkable 98 percent of these apartments are fully restored and families are back in their homes. And to help tens of thousands of families find permanent housing after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program has expanded assistance to more than 17,000 households in New Orleans today, nearly double its pre-Katrina figure. These vouchers are critical to ensuring that very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled can afford to live in safe, decent housing in the private market.
Investing in Public Safety and Neighborhood Redevelopment. The Environmental Protection Agency has partnered with various local school districts to provide grants and assistance to improve indoor air quality, provide mold removal and perform rodent and pest elimination in schools. Over $55 million has been provided for over 100 neighborhood watershed, marsh habitat, and the Mississippi barrier island restoration projects and over $67 million has gone to communities to upgrade drinking water systems. Additionally, EPA has awarded over $7.5 million in Brownfield funding for property assessment and clean-up for redevelopment. While providing grant money and training for neighborhood redevelopment, EPA has also performed site assessment and remediation for over 300 sites affected by Hurricane Katrina, including over 116 Underground storage tanks and 124 sites with confirmed releases of petroleum.
Launching New Resilience-Focused AmeriCorps Partnerships: The Obama Administration has formed public-private partnerships to apply the lessons learned and best practices from the national service response to Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, the Obama Administration announced a partnership between CNCS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA that created FEMA Corps. FEMA Corps is an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) program. In addition to serving along the Gulf Coast, the AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps unit has been part of the federal response to Hurricane Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and other disasters. In June, the St. Bernard Project, CNCS, and Toyota announced a three-year, $5 million investment from Toyota that will train 420 AmeriCorps members to help 30 communities to become more resilient. In July, CNCS, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with guidance and financial support from The Rockefeller Foundation and technical assistance and programmatic support from Cities of Service announced the first-ever Resilience AmeriCorps, a two-year pilot program that will recruit, train, and embed AmeriCorps VISTA members in ten communities. The new partnerships will enable AmeriCorps members to increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas, and help those communities develop plans for becoming more resilient to any number of shocks and stresses, including better preparations for extreme weather events.
Strengthening Access to Public Health and Disaster Aid for Veterans: In advance of the Affordable Care Act, the New Orleans area began moving toward a health care system that included preventative primary care delivered in neighborhood clinics. The Obama administration provided funding for these community health centers, which serve more than 50,000 people. Additionally, to replace the Veterans hospital destroyed by the storm, a nearly $1 billion, 1.6 million-square-foot VA Medical Center, is under construction near downtown New Orleans. To better prepare for emergencies, the new medical center will have five-day, self-sustaining capabilities for 1,000 people and all mission-critical services are 20 feet above ground elevation. Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s commitment to partner with Louisiana State University and Tulane University Medical schools for expanded acute care services, medical education and research has grown in the decade since Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, in response to situations faced by many Veterans following Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pursued legislation (and later achieved in P.L. 112-154) that allowed VA to subordinate its first-lien mortgage status to another state, federal, or local entity in instance of major disasters. This allows Veterans impacted by future disasters to obtain disaster relief funds from programs which require first-lien status to rebuild or repair their homes.
Ending Veterans Homelessness in Katrina-Impacted Communities: In June 2014, the First Lady announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness as part of the Joining Forces Initiative. Since the announcement, 585 mayors, 8 governors, and 152 county and city officials have publicly committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of 2015. The New Orleans VA Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC) is the first of VA’s referral centers to integrate federal, city, and private sector resources to serve both Veteran and non-Veteran homeless citizens and their family members. VA’s CRRC was an instrumental resource, along with an interagency council consisting of UNITY of Greater New Orleans; the Housing Authority of New Orleans; the State Office of Community Development; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the New Orleans Interagency on Homelessness, in accepting, and in January 2015, meeting the First Lady’s challenge. In April, the First Lady joined with Mayor Mitch Landrieu to celebrate this momentous achievement. And in June, Houston became the largest city in the country to end veteran homelessness.
Investing in Innovation and Economic Growth of the Gulf Region and Communities: The Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce have invested $178 million to support economic development opportunities and increase assistance to entrepreneurs in high-growth, high-wage industries in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Investments have supported workforce development partnerships, business development services, technology transfer activities, and the expansion of industries that rebuild wetlands, implement water management strategies, promote clean technologies, and perform other risk mitigation activities. The Department’s SelectUSA program, established by President Obama in 2011, has also worked to win more than $10 billion in foreign direct investment for Gulf Coast communities. To promote U.S. goods and protect Gulf Coast manufacturing jobs, the Department’s three U.S. Export Assistance Centers in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi have supported more than twenty international trade missions, 80 export outreach and counseling events, and touched more than 560 local businesses. Through these efforts, exports from Gulf Coast have grown more than 77 percent or nearly $126 billion since 2009.
Building Prepared and Resilient Gulf Communities and a Weather-Ready Nation: The Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have invested significant funds to increase the resilience of Gulf communities and their environment. In 2010, NOAA established the Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center in Mobile, Ala. to serve as a regional coordination center for federal, state and local emergency managers and partners to help Gulf communities prepare, respond to, and recover from disasters and serve as an emergency operations center during crisis. NOAA has helped to rebuild Gulf barrier island chains and natural wetlands critical for protection from storms and has provided more than $9 million in grants for projects to help make coastal communities more resilient to the effects of extreme weather events, climate hazards, and changing ocean conditions. The Administration has also made significant advancements to improve predictions, hurricane forecasts and storm surge models through investments in technology, data and innovation. Moreover, scientists from the U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey have engaged in a sustained program to understand and forecast hurricane-related impacts, developing and using the latest technology to provide reliable scientific information to communicate the threats associated with major storms and support decisions made by citizens and coastal managers. Together, these improvements will allow Gulf communities and businesses to better prepare for and respond to future storms–protecting infrastructure and property, minimizing economic losses, and protecting our communities and saving lives.
Repairing the Criminal Justice System and Strengthening Crime Prevention Efforts: The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) worked with the City of New Orleans and service providers, including Catholic Charities, to rebuild and transform the City’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault victims. This work culminated in the New Orleans Family Justice Center – a co-located facility for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In addition, OVW’s work resulted in the development of the multi-disciplinary New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team (New Orleans SART). In July 2012, the Department also partnered with the City of New Orleans to enter into a consent decree to help ensure that the New Orleans Police Department engages in constitutional policing. In September 2012, New Orleans was selected by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention through a competitive application process to join the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of communities and federal agencies that work together, share information and build local capacity to prevent and reduce youth violence. Supported by the Forum, New Orleans developed the NOLA FOR LIFE PLAYbook: Promoting Life for all Youth – a strategic plan for action to prevent youth violence. The PLAYbook takes a collective impact approach to addressing youth violence, and emphasizes the tools of public health: a focus on prevention, data-driven strategies, collaboration, and a population-level scale for action. Since 2012, Forum funding to the City of New Orleans Health Department is nearly $500,000. DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) also worked closely with the City of New Orleans to provide valuable research to support rebuilding the city’s criminal justice system after Hurricane Katrina, resulting in three key research reports funded by the Bureau: first, an assessment of the city’s technology and information sharing systems, as it related to criminal justice work; second, BJA partnered with University of Maryland to produce a research study and recommendations regarding crime issues in New Orleans; and third, an assessment of the New Orleans Police Department’s homicide policies and procedures, resulting in a set of recommendations for better processing of homicides with the ultimate goal of increasing the clearance rate.
Creating A New Model of Federal-Community Partnerships: The Obama Administration has also modeled a new partnership effort in cities and towns across the country, including in New Orleans. Using a new approach the Administration has put federal supports in place to focus on the direction that cities and small towns want to go in and to partner with communities on their visions. New Orleans is now home to seven federal “place-based” initiatives including: the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2), Partnership for Sustainable Communities, USDA’s Strike Force initiative, and the Youth Violence Prevention Forum. New Orleans’ main priorities for these collaborations included Post-Katrina community development and increasing access to affordable housing for its residents. The Strong Cities Strong Communities customized approach to working with local partners placed a federal team on the ground with a team lead working directly with the Mayor’s office to help cut through the red-tape. Some of the impacts of this community lead work in New Orleans include:
- A collaboration between the Housing Authority of New Orleans, HUD, the local VA hospital and other groups the New Orleans “Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness” was able to bring the number of homeless veterans in New Orleans to functional zero by December 2014, a full year earlier than the proposed goal of 2015.
- President Obama’s TIGER grant program helped to expand and accelerate the return of streetcars to a city famous for them. A $45 million TIGER grant was awarded to open the Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Line in the city’s business district after years of development.
- The DOT members of the New Orleans (SC2) team provided extensive technical assistance to the city of New Orleans for this project, and this support helped ensure that the streetcar line expansion was completed in time for use during the 2013 Super Bowl.
- The President’s New Orleans team (SC2) helped prevent substantial reductions in service delivery in New Orleans’ community health clinic system by facilitating conversations among government officials at the federal, state, and city levels that extended the timeframe for submitting claims for reimbursement. This effort kept funding flowing to the clinics, kept them from drastically reducing services or closing down operations, and enabled them to continue to serve their communities.
- While almost all of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s old buses were destroyed in the flooding after Hurricane Katrina, today thanks to help from the federal government it operates over 80 buses on 32 bus routes and boasts one of the newest fleets of any transit system in the country. The average vehicle age is just one year. FEMA has obligated a total of more than $121.5 million to pay for a variety of the RTA’s costs, including new buses.