Disaster Assistance: Federal Efforts to Assist Group Site Residents with Employment, Services for Families with Children, and Transportation

GAO-09-81 Published: Dec 11, 2008. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 2008.
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In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused more damage than any other single natural disaster in U.S. history, with Hurricane Rita adding to the devastation. The hurricanes hit some of the most distressed areas in the country. Louisiana and Mississippi had the highest poverty rates in the United States, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Hurricane Katrina destroyed or made uninhabitable an estimated 300,000 homes, many of which had families with children. In response to this destruction, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided many affected households with trailers for temporary housing in Louisiana and Mississippi. Those trailers not placed on homeowners' property were located in group sites. Although FEMA's guidance suggests that group sites should be located near existing supermarkets, public transportation, schools, and health care facilities, FEMA officials said the agency was not always able to locate temporary housing in these settings because of the level of destruction and, sometimes, opposition from communities. As of May 2008, several thousand households remained in group sites. Given the number of people who remained in group sites more than 2 years after Hurricane Katrina, GAO was asked to address a range of disaster assistance services and is conducting work looking at case management, housing, health care, and the role of not-for-profit organizations in disaster recovery. This report focuses on the federal government's efforts to assist group site residents with employment, services for families with children, and transportation. Specifically, this report addresses the following key questions: (1) What is known about the number and location of the group sites and their residents? (2) What did the federal government do to assist group site residents with employment, services for families with children, and transportation? (3) What challenges did federal and state agencies face in providing this assistance to group site residents?

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