New Orleans Making Progress After Katrina, But Not Quickly Enough, Report Finds

With the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just weeks away, a sizable majority of New Orleanians say the rebuilding process is going well, although a substantial number still say the city has not recovered and feel the nation has forgotten them, a new report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation finds.

Based on the third in a series of surveys conducted since the hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast region, the report, New Orleans Five Years After the Storm: A New Disaster Amid Recovery (65 pages, PDF), found that 70 percent of Orleans Parish residents said recovery and rebuilding efforts are moving in the right direction, up from 56 percent in 2008 and 58 percent in 2006. However, nearly six in ten respondents disagreed with the statement that the city has "mostly recovered" from Katrina, while a third (32 percent) of respondents who lived through the storm said their lives are still "very" or "somewhat" disrupted, compared to 41 percent two years ago and 46 percent in 2006. And nearly a quarter of residents (24 percent) are planning or considering a move from the greater New Orleans area, up from 12 percent in 2006, while seven in ten said they believe most Americans have "forgotten" about the continuing challenges facing the region.

Although 87 percent of residents said they have seen "some" or "a lot" of progress in restoring tourism, fewer residents said they've seen progress in repairing damaged levees, pumps, and floodwalls (65 percent) or rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods (59 percent). Crime was the biggest concern for survey respondents, with 64 percent saying the city has made little or no progress in reducing crime and just over half (54 percent) saying they are at least somewhat worried about becoming a victim of violent crime.

Asked to compare the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to Katrina, 49 percent of respondents said they believe the fallout from the spill represents a more damaging threat to New Orleans, while 40 percent said Katrina caused more damage. Large majorities said the spill will affect the New Orleans economy (64 percent) and the local environment (70 percent) a "great deal."

"Residents report a lot of progress in the recovery effort, but just as the city appeared to be turning a corner it got hit by a different kind of hurricane — the oil spill," said KFF president and CEO Drew Altman. "It is striking that while jobs is the number-one issue across America, crime swamps all other issues in New Orleans."