With the crashing economy dominating national news, the problems of a few Gulf Coast communities hit by hurricanes might not amount to a hill of beans in the big picture. But for many people in places like Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Gulfport, Mississippi, coming back from Hurricane Ike, or even Hurricane Katrina, is still life's top priority.
Galveston officials traveled to a hearing January 7 with state legislators to plead for help — if only in the form of a refund to the city of sales taxes collected there for the state. Read about it in this Houston Chronicle story. Galveston city employees, including firefighters and police, have agreed to a 3% pay cut to help the city get by. Even so, layoffs are looming if the city can't fend off a cash-flow crisis caused by a 30% drop in revenue. The state legislature voted to create an emergency recovery fund for Galveston — but has not appropriated any money to put in the fund.
Making landfall on Saturday, September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike was rated at Category 2, but it's low central pressure was more typical of a stronger storm. Ike’s storm surge wiped away hundreds of homes and businesses from some of the most exposed stretches of the barrier island.
Galveston residents looking 200 miles to the east could be forgiven if they find the lesson of New Orleans, Gulfport, and Biloxi discouraging. In New Orleans, reports the Times-Picayune, the game clock is running down on the funding window for business recovery or development projects with Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds, federally supported low-interest, tax-exempt financing. With only 4% of the money tapped, unused funds will go to other parishes if New Orleans planners can't manage to get projects in gear soon.
And life is still tough for many individuals hoping to rebuild their own homes. A January 6 PBS Frontline documentary, "The Old Man and the Storm," focuses on the problems of New Orleans through the eyes of one old man trying to start over.
On the Mississippi side, hundreds of people still living in Katrina cottages are facing a deadline to get out. (While living in their cottages "for free" on the sites where their homes used to stand, Katrina victims have been continuing to pay their mortgages in order to avoid being foreclosed and losing the land as well as the house.) That story is covered in USA Today and also in the Biloxi Sun-Herald.
If Katrina cottages aren't suitable for permanent housing, nobody has told that to Lowe's. The home center giant is offering a range of Katrina Cottage packages, ranging from the basic one-bedroom, 308-sqft model, up to a 5-bedroom, 1807-sqft expanded version.