FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–September 3, 2020
Hurricane Laura Victims Are Suffering in Silence
Hurricane Laura was yet another blow to a state that was already suffering from a cascading set of disasters. Now, it appears the immense damage caused by the storm, and the recovery and relief efforts that are needed, have almost entirely disappeared from the public consciousness outside of the impacted region.
NEW ORLEANS, LA | September 3, 2020—As Louisianans cry out for help, their pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears. Despite Hurricane Laura making landfall just one week ago, where it upended hundreds of thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars of damage across the state, the story appears to have largely been pushed from the national news cycle.
Much of Southwest Louisiana has been rendered uninhabitable, without electricity or running water. Parts of Central and Northern Louisiana were also devastated, and are likely weeks away from having power restored, but have mostly been excluded from the initial round of FEMA declarations. More than 10,000 people have evacuated to hotels in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas. Another 4,000 people were evacuated to hotels in Texas. And this all comes on top of the suffering that was occurring in Louisiana before and during the Covid pandemic.
“Half of all households in Louisiana were already struggling to make ends meet before COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura hit,” said Michael Williamson, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) President and CEO. “Now those families–and many more–are unable to afford basic necessities as they recover from unimaginable hardship.”
The economic struggles that Williamson is speaking to, along with high rates of Covid infections and deaths that are disproportionately impacting communities of color; a looming eviction crisis; and racial tensions that were exacerbated when the Lafayette police killed a Black man, Trayford Pellerin, days before the storm hit, had already set the stage for a long, difficult recovery in Louisiana, even without a Category 4 hurricane.
“The Power Coalition was already addressing so many of those underlying issues before Laura tore through Louisiana,” said Candice Battiste, the North Louisiana Organizer for the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ). “So we quickly switched gears to provide direct aid to people in the communities we serve. But in the midst of all this we’re also reminding folks that disaster recovery and relief is directly tied to civic engagement activities like voting and completing the Census. It’s important that we make that connection, even in times like this… especially in times like this.”
Williamson agreed, adding, “Today, the need to complete the Census is more urgent than ever as we fight to secure all available resources to help stabilize our communities and rebuild the economy.”
“Based on my deep experience in disaster recovery, I know the Census will be critical to the recovery process,” said PCEJ Executive Director Ashley Shelton. “In 2010, Louisiana was undercounted due to the impacts of Katrina, which made our long-term recovery from that disaster even more difficult. We can’t let that happen again.”
So far, PCEJ has been working with community partners on the ground in Lake Charles and Shreveport to provide immediate relief. We also regranted money to UWSELA to help them serve the approximately 10,000 evacuees who are currently sheltering in the New Orleans area, and are working with Shiloh Baptist Church to serve families in Baton Rouge. We are also continuing to survey the landscape to understand the changing dynamics and determine what other resources are needed.
Given all of this devastation, we can’t lose sight of the people who are impacted. Their stories need to be told. If you want to talk to people on the ground who are dealing with Laura’s aftermath, please contact PCEJ Communications Director Peter Robins-Brown at email@example.com or 504-256-8196.
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice works to build voice and power in traditionally ignored communities. We are a coalition of groups from across Louisiana whose mission is to organize in impacted communities, educate and turn out voters, and fight for policies that create a more equitable and just system in Louisiana.
Who: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, United Way of Southeast Louisiana
What: Responding to Hurricane Laura’s devastation in Louisiana
When: September 3, 2020
Ashley Shelton, Executive Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (225) 802-2435, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (504) 256-8196, email@example.com