Residents return to New Orleans
The New Orleans region has recovered a significant portion of its pre-Katrina population, helped along by an increase in Hispanic families, but basic services such as schools, hospitals and public transportation still are slow to rebound, according to a r
"It's pretty much in line with what the mayor forecast a while ago," said Ceeon Quiett, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin, referring to the population growth.
The population numbers are based on U.S. Postal Service data of households actively getting mail service in the region.
"Crime remains unacceptably high in the city, eliciting real and legitimate concerns from residents and business owners," the report states. Essential criminal justice buildings, including police stations, still are in need of repair. Two police stations and police headquarters continue to operate from trailers supplied by FEMA.
Returning basic services to parts of the city, including schools, child care and city buses, has been slow because of the process involved in obtaining federal funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Quiett added.
In July, Louisiana and Mississippi officials testified at a Washington hearing about delays in getting FEMA money to rebuild infrastructure such as schools and police stations.
Many schools still closed
The number of students enrolled in public schools this spring in Orleans Parish, which includes New Orleans, has reached 40% of pre-Katrina enrollment of more than 66,000. The report notes that 1,700 students returned to the public school system in New Orleans between the 2006 and 2007 spring semesters.
Only 45% of the city's schools are open, according to the report compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution and the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a non-profit group. Of the 128 public schools in Orleans Parish, 58 have reopened as of May. Another 25 schools are scheduled to reopen by fall, but many essential repairs to those schools have not been completed.
The report found fewer black students are enrolling in New Orleans schools and more Hispanic families are moving into outlying areas.
Though still the majority, black students now make up 89% of the student body in Orleans Parish, down from 93% pre-Katrina, possibly indicating black students are disproportionately struggling to return to New Orleans, the report said.
New Orleans' black communities were among the hardest hit by the floods and have struggled to return to the city and rebuild their lives, said one of the report's authors, Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution.
"We thought we would see a whiter student body," she said. "The composition of student populations gives us a good sense of which families are back."
The report also found:
• An increase of 207 Hispanic students registered at public schools in St. Tammany Parish, north of New Orleans, despite a net loss of 730 students there.
• 10 of the 23 acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, long-term disability and rehabilitation facilities in New Orleans remain shuttered.
• The New Orleans region, which includes six outlying parishes, gained 17,000 new jobs in the past year, bringing the workforce to about 80% of pre-Katrina levels of more than 200,000.
Economy a bright spot
The indicators are an important barometer for New Orleans and surrounding areas as the region shifts from recovery to rebuilding efforts, Liu said.
The report gave a particularly bleak outlook for St. Bernard Parish, the area east of New Orleans that was heavily battered by Katrina. Just 36% of the parish's pre-storm population lives there now, and less than half of its students have enrolled in public schools, it said.
The report was more optimistic about the region's economy. Revenues from sales taxes in New Orleans have reached 84% of pre-Katrina levels, it said. As stores and businesses reopened, the city's monthly sales tax revenues climbed from $1.1 million immediately after the storm to $11.2 million this summer.
Also, New Orleans' labor force has reached 79% of pre-Katrina levels, growing 10% the past year, the report said.
"Two years later, many aspects of the economy are nearly restored to pre-Katrina levels," the report said.
The report also offered updates on the Road Home program, a federally funded initiative that gives money to Louisiana homeowners with damaged homes. As of Aug. 2, only 22% of the 180,000 applicants had received money.
USATODAY Last Mod: 13 Ağustos 2007, 11:11