Why they stay

Published 02 Jun 2017

A natural hazard is an event that interrupts the daily activities of those affected, destroys property, and takes lives. Many times, this natural hazard occurs in the form of a natural disaster, which may be described as an uncontrollable weather system. The United States, particularly in the areas of New Orleans and Florida, has experienced several natural disasters this past decade. The people who live in a natural disaster area are forced to modify their daily activities prior to, during, and after the storm occurs. This sudden life change may introduce high levels of stress, which may lead to negative health outcomes. The mental and physical well-being of the victim is comprised and their ability to carry out their daily functions is taken from them. Yet, the individuals affected by the storm remain living in the area, as relief programs struggle to sustain their costs of living.

Powerful storms such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes occur when warm, light air rises quickly into higher or colder levels in an unstable updraft reaching over 100 miles per hour. The recent increase in hurricanes are attributed to global warming, particularly affecting the “average global near-surface air temperatures and Atlantic sea-surface temperatures”. Each storm forms under specific conditions; hurricanes occur over moisture-rich oceans and coastlines, for example. They draw their energy from warm ocean waters. Hurricanes are spinning columns of air capable of causing great damage and cover vast areas and draw their power from the warm tropical oceans.

In the United States, the most devastating hurricane occurred last year and was named Hurricane Katrina. For Katrina relief, $90 million disaster assistance was sanctioned for the complete rehabilitation and reestablishments of oyster reefs in the State of Louisiana. $150 million was sanctioned for the establishment of strategically located emergency fisheries infrastructure facilities to service the affected fleets, fishermen and processors, to ensure that their product can reach market. $35 million were provided for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to rebuild lost markets. $4 million were given as emergency funding to the South Regional Climate Center for hurricane forecasting and data, $36 million dedicated to Louisiana to provide low income home energy assistance, Electric Utility Relief-Modeled was provided to airlines to compensate electric utility and gas distribution companies to cover direct losses for rebuilding, repair and restoration of facilities and services and for the loss of a significant part of a customer base for a sustained period of time.

Overall, “the devastation caused by last year’s vicious hurricane season was epic, evident from the clean-up process still underway on the Gulf Coast. And the response by Americans was historic: People contributed more money to U.S. charities in the wake of the storms than they did for any other single crisis.”

About one year after Hurricane Katrina, about 69,000 Louisianans whose jobs were washed away by Hurricane Katrina lost their unemployment. At one time, nearly 300,000 Katrina victims from Mississippi and Louisiana received special help from the federal disaster unemployment benefits program, which helps people who have exhausted state unemployment benefits or were self-employed and therefore ineligible for state aid.

While many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina are without work, they are not without skills. One displaced victim by the name of Sharon Holley Bendtsen, 57, is a former schoolteacher. Nationwide, there is a teacher shortage. However, in the New Orleans area, there are too many teachers. However, Bendtsen has opted to stay in the area and rebuild her life with her husband. Following the hurricane, Bendtsen lived with her husband in a FEMA trailer on a lot outside of her flooded lakefront home. She has been looking for work in every parish in south Louisiana, but jobs for teachers are currently in shortage. Her only two options at the time are to work in retail or construction. However, Bendtsen says, “she can’t life enough to be a stock clerk and can’t stay on her feet long enough to be a waitress.”

Unfortunately, Mrs. Bendtsen’s story is not unique. Granderson Johnson, a 46-year-old diabetic, was a photographer for Wal-Mart in New Orleans. He found temporary work at a store in Houston after the storm but now is unemployed. He hopes to return to New Orleans soon and find a job.

“It’s been hard,” said Johnson, adding that the $104 of DUA he gets every week go for groceries and gas.

Although the number of workers getting DUA benefits has declined, as some have successfully returned to work, several hurdles remain for people like Bendtsen and Johnson, said Don Baylor, policy analyst with the CPPP’s Austin office.

In response to victims of natural disasters, Labor Secretary Chao and Education Secretary Spellings have been busy putting a plan into action to alleviate the effects of the Katrina disaster on employment and performance.
During a briefing with reporters after the meeting, the secretaries said they would seek legislative changes giving them flexibility to meet the education and employment needs of victims and others affected by the storm. Spellings said one change she would seek would remove the requirement that students attend school in the district where they are living member George Miller, D-Calif., sharply criticized the decision to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act.

Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans Wednesday also introduced a bill that would loosen the rules governing the Labor Department’s National Emergency Grant program. This program offers employment and training for as long as six months to people who participate in projects providing assistance to disaster victims. The bill would expand “eligibility for the program and the kind of work that beneficiaries could perform”.

When affected by disaster, many individuals become angry of Government’s apathetic attitude towards them and have expectations of relief. Thus, they are left to believe that, eventually, their lives will return to normal. There is also a hope that the final stages of recovery shall soon come, as was shown when the economy of Florida began to boom three months after the last hurricane. After the flooding of Hurricane Katrina, there is an immediate sanction of Federal disaster relief dollars and insurance reimbursement dollars with the promise by the Federal government to pay US$10.5 billion in aid with much more to come.

There is no question that natural disasters have devastating results on the lives of affected individuals. However, the victims stay because they have a sense of home and community. Rather than up and leave, they fight through the issues of unemployment, they live in trailers, they seek out government support in hopes of overcoming and getting their lives back.

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