You See the Problem: Rich, White Towns Showered in Hurricane Help

October 5, 2018


New misdemeanor – Drowning while Black.


Small, rich, white towns in southeast Texas are getting a disproportionate amount in federal disaster recovery funds following Hurricane Harvey compared to neighboring communities that are poorer and have a larger minority population, according to a new report by City Lab.

The report pointed out the very affluent and very white community of Taylor Landing, a small town of just 228 residents, which received $1.3 million in funds to help its 22 hurricane affected residents. That comes to about $60,000 per affected resident.

Meanwhile, just 15 miles east, Port Arthur received just $84 in federal funding per person. Out of 54,000 residents — more than a third of whom are black — almost everyone was impacted by Harvey, and the city had a high poverty rate. It received $4.1 million in the same set of federal funds, to be distributed among 50,000 affected people.

The report placed the blame on the way the state and local commissions distribute federal housing funds.

Texas received more than $5 billion ($157 million to Southeast Texas) in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to pay for buyouts and acquisitions of homes destroyed by the storm and conduct storm mitigation projects to help communities prepare for the next storm, according to City Lab. But a state land management agency called the General Land Office distributes the funds to local governments and two dozen regional boards called Councils of Governments decides how those funds are distributed.

According to the report, state policies distribute the funds, which requires minimum disbursements for buying out properties at $1 million, a formula that provides too much aid small towns and too little to large cities. It did not factor in where the most people live and where the greatest needs are.

Not just housing. Reports of basic rescue services denied to poor during Florence.


KINSTON, North Carolina — Hours after Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina last month, battering the state with heavy rains and flooding, a group of migrant farmworkers woke up to find themselves in waist-deep water.

Isolated in a migrant labor camp in rural Jones County, far from the view of paved roads, the workers called 911 and told emergency officials they needed to be rescued. Then they waited for hours, watching as their mattresses, refrigerators, and other belongings floated by in the rising floodwaters.

But unbeknownst to the workers at the time, a county emergency management team had canceled an effort to extract them, after the owner of the farm where the men were working called county officials to say the laborers at the camp were “fine.”

“We were there in the rain and didn’t know what to do,” a worker who was among those stranded at the camp, and who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, told BuzzFeed News.

“The water started coming in, but we hoped that it would keep flowing and go down,” he said. “Once it got higher than a meter, we had to get out.”

Located deep in eastern North Carolina’s farming country, Jones County was among the areas hardest hit by Florence. Bracing for the hurricane’s impact, the county had declared a state of emergency on Sept. 11, four days before Florence made landfall, and ordered mandatory evacuations for its roughly 10,000 residents.

Men at the camp were told a hurricane was approaching, the worker told BuzzFeed News, but many of them — including himself — had never experienced one before. He said he was not aware of any evacuation order.

Eric Merritt, Jones County’s emergency management director, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the county received the workers’ 911 calls on the morning of Sept. 15, and said that first responders, including a swift-water rescue team, were initially dispatched to the camp in response.

The rescue crews had trouble reaching the location because of a road that had been blocked off by rising water, Merritt said. In the meantime, he said, the owner of the farm where the workers were located contacted the county to say that the group of roughly 35 to 40 men were fine.

“We contacted a swift-water team, and by that time the farm owner stated he made contact with [the workers] and they were fine, that they were just in an isolated area,” Merritt said. “That they had everything they needed as far as food and water.”

It was not clear why the farm owner, Randy Riggs, of Riggs Brothers Farm, called off the county’s rescue efforts, or why workers at the camp stayed behind four days after the mandatory evacuation had been issued. Riggs did not respond to multiple messages from BuzzFeed News.

Asked why an emergency rescue would be called off on the word of the property owner, despite firsthand requests from the stranded workers, Merritt said he was not sure.

“He’s the actual owner and representative of the property,” Merritt said. “In that situation we’ll use the information from the most reliable case.”

Pressed on whether those asking to be rescued should be considered the most reliable source, Merritt conceded, “I guess in this case, yes.”

Below – at 4:49, Jim White reminds us that the average Florida Coastal property is subsidized at $2400 per year – $72,000 over the life of a 30 year mortgage, out of US taxpayer’s pockets.

2 Responses to “You See the Problem: Rich, White Towns Showered in Hurricane Help”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    New misdemeanor – Drowning while Black.

    That needs to be modified just a bit to “Drowning while Black and Poor”. In my home state of NJ and here in NO VA, blacks who are at the same socioeconomic level as whites and can manage to move into the “better” neighborhoods generally do OK in terms of government support.

    Unfortunately, many tend to abandon their poorer brethren as they move up and escape the social and economic racism. Some of the most interesting and “lively” community meetings I attended as a school administrator involved black parents from both ends of the economic spectrum. Another administrator in the same school, who was black and the president of the County NAACP Chapter, had a hard time restraining himself at these meetings, and later fumed to me about “lace curtain blacks” who forgot where they came from.

    Human nature is human nature.

  2. Stephen Nielsen Says:

    I witnessed the same thing happened after Katrina.
    Unfortunately, in the short term, each successive climate change disaster is only going to help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer until, of course, it comes around to bite them as well

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