Despite Millions in Aid, Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts Have Long Way to Go

Although the Greater New Orleans Disaster Recovery Partnership has distributed an estimated $25 million in cash, labor, and supplies to families in the New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina struck almost four years ago, rebuilding efforts still have a long way to go, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Yet as the fourth anniversary of the storm approaches, the region's recovery is only at the halfway point, at best, said Paul Timmons, executive director of the partnership.

After most natural disasters, nonprofit relief organizations create county-based clearinghouses to coordinate their work and share resources. But because the devastation after Katrina was so vast, a much broader partnership of faith-based and secular relief groups that included the Salvation Army and local chapters of the American Red Cross was formed to help the region rebuild. But even when the aid from that effort is combined with the tens of millions that individual groups provided, the total is a small fraction of the billions in private aid that has flowed — and still flows — into the storm zone since 2005.

In the meantime, the big private gifts and grants and the surge of volunteers that marked 2006 and 2007 have largely tapered off. To meet ongoing needs, the partnership is looking to continue its work with the help of state and federal funding. The Louisiana Recovery Authority is expected to make $20 million available next year, for instance.

"Now that our systems are pretty refined," said the partnership's chairman, Tom Costanza, "we think we're well-positioned to get those funds into the community."