Monday, September 03, 2007

Are the rich getting most of the welfare money after Hurricane Katrina?

Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, Biloxi Mississippi

Many are still struggling on the Gulf Coast. But casino and real estate investors are living large -- thanks to Republican officials.

By Tim Shorrock

As residents of Mississippi's Gulf Coast gather today to commemorate the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, they will recall a cataclysmic storm that spared no one, rich or poor, from its destruction. Virtually every structure along the 90-mile stretch of coastline was either wrecked or swept away after Katrina's 140-mile-an-hour winds and 40-foot storm surge came ashore like a steamroller from hell.

Yet, while the national media has focused its attention on New Orleans, it has given relatively little coverage to the hurricane's impact elsewhere, even though the destruction to coastal Mississippi, which bore the full brunt of the storm, was as bad as, and in some places worse than, the calamity that struck New Orleans when the levees there broke.

Two years later, some of these areas are still distressed. One reason for the lack of attention paid to the Gulf Coast may be the massive investments made in the region by casino, hotel and real estate interests.

That has created the appearance of a recovery that business promoters say has brought, and will continue to bring, enormous growth to the area.

But many locals say that the casino-led development has done little to alleviate post-disaster conditions for most residents, including the 37 percent of the population -- approximately a half million people -- who earn below what federal guidelines deem low to moderate income.

Moreover, maneuvering in Washington by the state's Republican leaders has diverted aid money away from some of the people who need it the most.

...Reilly Morse, a civil rights lawyer from Biloxi who works for the Mississippi Center for Justice, [says] "Since the aid money began flowing, there's really been two recoveries here: one that generally favored homeowners with resources, and another one that basically priced the poor out of the housing market."

The $23.5 billion in federal funding that Mississippi's [Republican] governor and its two Republican senators managed to obtain was unprecedented in scope for a state recovering from a natural disaster. But the distribution of the $4 billion the state obtained specifically to help residents rebuild their housing, thanks to Barbour, has been badly skewed toward wealthy homeowners.

No comments: