Levee settlement offers inadequate compensation

Residents and businesses around and within New Orleans were notified in 2014 that they were eligible to receive payments from a $20 million settlement between local parishes and levee districts.

These payments are merely a token and insufficient in covering the high costs associated with disaster recovery.

The settlement will compensate for flood damage from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The major flooding that resulted from the failure of levees protecting the city caused $150 million in damages. Letters were sent out on Feb. 27 notifying residents of the amount they would be compensated, most of which fell between $2.50 and $3,700. Katrina victims are justifiably shocked by how minuscule these payments are. If levee districts hope to make up for a considerable amount of damage they caused, they must be prepared to set aside more money for the victims than these meager repayments.

The $20 million promised has been lowered to about $14.2 million as a result of the high costs of hiring lawyers and administering the settlement. This means that payments only account for about 9.5 percent of the actual damage that was ruled to have resulted from the faulty levees. This is not to say that all destruction brought about by Katrina and Rita can be blamed on the levee districts, but surely insurance companies owe the people more than just under 10 percent of what they have lost.

Residents were aware at the time they applied for payments that only a limited amount of funding was available and that payments would likely be insubstantial. Still, there is no excuse for levee districts’ inability to provide the people with what they deserve.

One example of the predicament facing those affected is the case of Marcus Jackson, who, for a claim of his two parents drowning, as well as survivor claims and property ownership claims, was offered just $44 as compensation. All of the aforementioned claims combined, however, warranted compensation of more than $700. It is easy to see how insensitive and even offensive these payments may appear to victims. Out of respect for these people, something must be done to right this wrong.

While this issue may not appear to influence Tulane students directly, it is important to note that many members of our community were affected by Katrina and Rita. Much of the community service work so highly touted by Tulane admissions also focused on Katrina recovery. It is imperative that all Tulanians be aware of the issues and struggles faced by residents of New Orleans and take action to ensure that victims of such a significant disaster are not treated this way in the future.

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Robin is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]