Two thirds of Katrina refugees still without jobs

2006

One year after Hurricane Katrina, nearly two thirds of the thousands of people who were evacuated to Texas are still jobless, a new report has warned.

A study by Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and reported in the Dallas Morning News, said nearly 60 per cent of the 251,000 evacuees still living in Texas were jobless.

More than half, 54 per cent, were still receiving federal housing subsidies and 41 per cent were living on less than $500 a month.

Texas is not the only state suffering problems. In Louisiana, the Louisiana State University has launched a free educational programme in conjunction with the Salvation Army designed to give Katrina refugees training to help them get jobs.

The Job Readiness Training Program is helping participants assess, identify and improve their work skills, thereby increasing their chances for re-employment.

The idea, said the university, is for evacuees to be able to access "structured guidance, assessment, training, job search assistance, and tangible proof of skills and abilities in the form of skill certificates issued from LSU and other leading universities across the country".

But in Texas, many of the Katrina refugees were the poorest of the poor from New Orleans and now, said the Dallas Morning News, they were among the poorest Texans. More worrying, relief funds were starting to run out, it added.

Many evacuees already have been cut off from Federal Emergency Management Agency rental assistance. And thousands of others face eviction because they aren't earning enough to pay the rent.

"We knew how to get people into those units, and we knew how to get them some assistance. But we never had a plan for the second step," said John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. "The second step was sink or swim."

More than 90 advocacy organisations, including the housing service, have called current funding grossly inadequate and asked Congress to provide more housing assistance.

Increasingly, large numbers of poor evacuees are turning to overburdened charities or programmes such as food stamps and subsidised housing, the paper added.

Yet 71 per cent of adult evacuees to Texas said they had jobs before coming to the state, yet just 30 per cent of adult evacuees in Texas now had jobs.

The initial outpouring of support and welcome has given way to frustration and even, in some quarters, resentment.

There was an expectation among the public that hurricane evacuees would have moved on by now, the paper added.

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