images from Hurricane Katrina are indelible: Tens of thousands of people living
and dying amid the darkness of the Superdome while surrounded by waste, drugs
and despair; Countless people refusing to evacuate uninhabitable New Orleans without
their beloved pets; President George W. Bush promoting Medicare, Donald Rumsfeld
attending a San Diego Padres game and Condoleeza Rice shopping for shoes in the
early days as the Gulf Coast was rocked and ravaged by one of the worst natural
disasters in history.
Many reports claim that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not
send the amount of buses and requested supplies. But this will all soon be in
the past. The past represents businesses, homes and families ruined by a collaboration
of events. In the weeks since Hurricane Katrina, blame can be placed in a variety
of places, but eventually, this ravaged land will have to be rebuilt. And what
will the rebuilding of the Big Easy mean for the future economy?
Relief is estimated to cost $200 billion, or as much as the war in Iraq has cost
thus far. Congress passed one relief bill for $10.8 billion and another for $51.8
billion. This total of $63.2 billion has been used for individual assistance (up
to $26,000 per family), for public assistance (debris removal, emergency care,
search and rescue), temporary housing, and various other things. FEMA is in charge
of the relief effort and has received $60 billion. But where will this money come
"It's important to understand there is no piggy bank when you think about emergency
money for disasters, because we're already in a deficit situation," said Linda
Bilmes, public policy lecturer at Harvard University. "We have to borrow that
President Bush insists that this will not raise taxes. Instead, Congress will
cut unnecessary spending.
"We've got to maintain economic growth and, therefore, we should not raise taxes,"
Bush said. "Our working people have had to pay a tax, in essence, by higher gasoline
prices. And we don't need to be taking more money out of their pocket."
While Hurricane Rita did not raise the price of crude oil and gasoline as much
as analysts feared, economists are predicting shock for homeowners when they receive
their first heating bill of the winter, which could be much higher than they are
used to. Although gasoline prices have mostly leveled off to prices analogous
to those of early August, it could be years before the U.S. is able to attain
a supply of natural gas and therefore lower its price.
According to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, economic growth will fall 0.75 percent in the
current quarter as opposed to the previously estimated 0.5 to 1 percent. The number
of jobs expected to be lost because of Katrina fell from 400,000 to 300,000, another
positive aspect for the business sector.
The Wall Street Journal reported that "Americans' personal income declined $5.3
billion, or 0.1 percent, in August from the preceding month, after rising .3 percent
in July. The Commerce Department said the decline included $100 billion at an
annualized rate, in uninsured losses to individuals and businesses cause by Hurricane
Katrina. The decline related to Katrina was offset by income gains-including $70
billion in insurance payments-in other areas, resulting in a smaller decline in
total personal income."
Consumer spending fell by 0.5 percent, or $47.2 billion, which is the largest
drop to occur since November 2001. There is also an estimated $90 billion in residential
real estate damage. Without Katrina's occurrence, personal incomes most likely
would have risen .2 percent in August.
Residents living in areas affected by Katrina, or whose tax forms and records
were located there, will be granted relief by the federal government. Deadlines
will be extended automatically in the hardest-hit areas, and the IRS encourages
other victims to write "Hurricane Katrina" at the top of their forms in red ink.
As with the tsunami last winter, the outpouring of donations to aid in relief
has been overwhelming, but non-profit leaders are not worried about the current
crisis detracting from regular groups getting the funding they need.
Diana Pool Spencer, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals,
said giving increases unilaterally after a disaster. "When something like this
happens, it creates an awareness and a spirit of giving in people," she said.
After the attacks on September 11, groups saw an as much as a 6 percent increase
of donations over the previous year.
Average citizens aren't the only ones opening their hearts and wallets; celebrities
are emptying their significantly larger pockets in an effort to aid victims. Author
John Grisham has donated $5 million alone. Relief efforts include a variety of
concerts that have been staged: "The Big Apple to the Big Easy" on Sept. 20 featured
Elton John, Jimmy Buffett, Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks, Lenny Kravitz, John Fogerty,
Earth, Wind, & Fire, and the Neville brothers. Hoobastank, the Used and Pennywise
are among the performers scheduled for "Unite the United," put together by Warped
Tour Organizer Kevin Lyman.
Capitalizing on the recent popularity of Texas Hold 'Em Poker, BosPoker.com hosted
a celebrity poker tournament with the pot of $100,000 going to the Red Cross featuring
Jennifer Tilly, Hilary Duff, Joel Madden, Ron Livingston, Danny Masterston, and
Rapper Timbaland encouraged the hip-hop community to cut back on "bling" and focus
on relief aid as he planned to visit shelters in Texas.
Filmmaker Kevin Smith is auctioning off a role in Clerks 2: The Passion of the
Clerks among other things on his website, ViewAskew.com, with the proceeds going
to the Red Cross.
to be outdone, Ebay offers a variety of products and services for sale with auction
proceeds going to Katrina victims. One of the more extravagant of these is a 2002
BMW: X-Series X 5 4.4. The seller proclaims that all proceeds over $36,500 will
go to "Red Cross, America Fund or the Charity of your choice" and that "the donation
is your tax deduction in your name. So this is a great deal, car under retail
plus a tax deductible donation."
Ewing, NJ is even doing its part to contribute to relief for the victims who seem
a world away. The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is housing students from affected
universities by converting lounges and other places into dorm space for those
with no place to go. TCNJ served as one of eight drop-off points throughout the
state as part of the New Jersey Compassion Caravan. Various organizations are
selling bracelets inspired by Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong campaign to benefit
Katrina victims. Most recently, TCNJ hosted a 5K run/walk on Oct. 9.
During the chaos after the hurricane hit, many people looted stores for clothes,
food and other valuables, and the theft continues despite all of the charitable
acts performed by people across the nation. The Red Cross has been robbed of at
least $25,000 by nine people. Five of those people picked up Katrina relief checks
to which they had no entitlement.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott explained the procedure used by some of the felons
for stealing funds allotted by Western Union, saying, "The bad guys would call
their buddies and give them PIN numbers. Sometimes they'd just call with unused
PIN numbers. Sometimes they'd give a victim a PIN number and turn around and call
a buddy with the same PIN, and there'd be a race to Western Union."
The Red Cross has also had to combat people using false Louisiana addresses in
order to receive some of the Katrina funds for themselves. Luckily, the organization
has only had to investigate a small percentage of over three million victims it
The streets of New Orleans remain eerily quiet, but not devoid of hope. An innumerable
amount of people are waiting for the return of their loved ones: the ones who
loved New Orleans too much too leave and the ones who couldn't find a space on
the bus. As individuals from the Deep South try to reach some semblance of normalcy
again, the citizens from the other regions of a country already $8 trillion in
debt will attempt to relieve some of the burden through their time, money and
Allison Hurley is a junior Journalism
major at The College of New Jersey. This is her first time writing for unbound,
and she is a staff writer for TCNJ's student newspaper, The Signal. In addition
to writing, she enjoys photography, sharks, ligers, WaWa, gum, and 1884.