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More People Unemployed And Dead In New Orleans From Coronavirus Than Katrina

More People Unemployed And Dead In New Orleans From Coronavirus Than Katrina

New Orleans
There are more people who are unemployed and dead in New Orleans from the coronavirus pandemic than Hurricane Katrina nearly 15 years ago. Pallbearers, who were among only 10 allowed mourners, walk the casket for internment at the funeral for Larry Hammond, who died from the coronavirus, at Mount Olivet Cemetery in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Hammond was Mardi Gras royalty, and would have had hundreds of people marching behind his casket in second-line parades. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Hurricane Karina was devastating to Black communities in New Orleans and all of Louisiana, but it turns out the devastation wasn’t anywhere near the havoc coronavirus has inflicted on the Crescent City.

More people in Louisiana are unemployed —300,000 — and more have died — 2,500 — due to the covid-19 pandemic than when Hurricane Katrina hit 15 years ago, MSN reported. The epicenter of the impact is New Orleans, which at one point had the worst coronavirus death rate in the U.S. In New Orleans, nearly 60 percent of the population is Black.

Black residents make up 32 percent of the state’s population but 55 percent of its deaths from covid-19, MSN reported.

Unemployment is decimating the Black community in New Orleans as well. Black workers are losing their jobs at higher rates than the population at large and are financially less prepared for unemployment. On top of this, many Black-owned small businesses have been unable to access a government-supported loan program meant to keep them up and running.


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Black families have a median of 32 cents in available cash or other liquid assets for every $1 a white family has, according to a study by the  JPMorgan Chase Institute, the bank’s internal think tank. Black families in New Orleans had 27 cents.

Black household income in New Orleans has been decreasing and falling further behind white households for the last few years. In 2018, the median Black household income in the city was about $25,000 a year, compared to $68,000 for the median white household, according to census data. 

“Even if you have been able to get ahead, these disasters set us back,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition, a Louisiana advocacy group. “We are in the quiet time before the storm.”

In Louisiana, more than 630,000 people have filed for unemployment insurance since the middle of March. That equals about 30 percent of the state’s labor force. It’s one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.

By comparison, the state lost 251,000 workers in September 2005 because of the devastation in the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area caused by Hurricane Katrina. 

It’s Black workers who have been hit hardest as they tend to work in jobs such as tourism and restaurants, according to the Data Center, a local research group. 

Many Black business owners were excluded nationwide from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to advocates. In New Orleans, many such businesses don’t even borrow from banks. When they do, they often shop for whichever bank will give them the best rate, leaving them without close and developed ties to a particular lender, according to Quentin L. Messer Jr., CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.

“These things happened pre-covid-19,” Messer told MSN. “Now we will see it in the ability, or inability, to bounce back.”

Food scarcity is another pressing issue for New Orleans, especially for Black residents in the economically challenged Lower Ward. 

As one Lower 9 resident told The Tennessean, many people like her are depending on food lines. “I’ve got no job. No housing. I’m staying with my mom now. You have to go around to certain places when they’re giving out food. That’s the only way you can eat now, because I can’t afford to go buy nothing. And you can’t get a job because no one is hiring,” said Carla Thomas.

Black neighborhoods became food deserts after Hurricane Katrina, which claimed the lives of 1,577 people in Louisiana.

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“Now there are no supermarkets down here,” said longtime resident Robert Green, who lost his mother in Katrina. “You wouldn’t move back home if you couldn’t get access to food.”

For some residents, all the efforts to bring the city back since Hurricane Katrina recently 15 years ago are disappearing.

The virus has stopped the progress that had been made, according to Burnell Cotlon, the owner of Burnell’s Lower 9th Ward Market.

“If I had to compare covid-19 to Hurricane Katrina, it’s a no-brainer. At least with a hurricane, you can pick your family up and leave because you have a warning. With this virus it’s impossible,” said Cotlon, who has operated the only grocery in the Lower Ninth Ward since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in a Fox News interview. “It’s like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. You’re dealing with Katrina. You’re dealing with the virus. And then it’s also a poor neighborhood.”