MANY KATRINA EVACUEES ARE STILL JOBLESS
June 1, 2007
Nineteen months after Hurricane Katrina sent evacuees from New Orleans streaming into Houston, more than 5,000 heads of households among them are still unemployed despite the city's booming economy, officials say.
The number of jobless is contributing to the sense among some Houston-area residents that the storm's victims are a drain on the city and have worn out their welcome. After the storm, a quarter-million evacuees were brought to Houston, welcomed by Mayor Bill White, who threw open the Astrodome. Even before the storm, many were desperately poor, unemployed and on welfare or food stamps.
Many had been holding out hope that they would be home in New Orleans by now, but the city's rebuilding has been painfully slow and about 100,000 are still in Houston. They have settled in more or less permanently, some still on food stamps.
- About 12,000 families are still getting federal aid for housing, the city said.
- Of that group, about 5,500 heads of households are unemployed, not counting those who are elderly and disabled, city officials said.
- Houston's economy is hot because of the booming oil and gas industry; city officials say there are 2 million job openings, 59,000 of which require only a high school education.
- Houston's unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, versus 4.5 percent nationally.
The government already is offering considerable help:
- FEMA-paid housing has been extended to 2009 and federal officials will move an evacuee closer to a job.
- Thirty hours of work a week earns an evacuee free child care.
- The city Community Settlement Task Force Network has spent $1.9 million since October offering resume help, free interview-appropriate clothes, job fairs, financial workshops, free food for children, computer classes, even hurricane-preparedness workshops.
- The money comes from $550 million in federal social-services grants that Congress authorized for all Katrina evacuees.
Source: Rasha Madkour, "Many Katrina evacuees are still jobless," Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 2007.
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