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Rush: How our New Orleans partners deployed $1.3M of Kresge funds following Hurricane Ida

American Cities

Four months ago, the people of Louisiana were dealt a painfully familiar blow. Sixteen years to the day when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast was hit with a Category 4 storm consisting of winds of about 150 mph, effectively making it the second-most damaging and intense hurricane on record to strike the state of Louisiana.

In the days immediately following the storm, Kresge committed to providing resources to the Foundation for Louisiana and Greater New Orleans Foundation to help those on the ground mobilize in communities with less access to resources. Since then, the foundation has provided additional support to existing and new partners, bringing the foundation’s emergency support to more than $1.3 million.

Grantees include community-based organizing, advocacy, civic engagement, community development, small business, and arts-focused organizations committed to advancing racial justice and serving New Orleanians with low incomes.

While federal and state aid for disaster relief was being organized, Kresge partners used initial funding to provide mutual aid for residents who simply could not wait for food and medication, access to healthcare, diapers, roof tarps, lodging, mucking and gutting, and COVID tests.

Among several examples:

  • New Orleans Resilience Corps staged and supported food distribution sites for people still in New Orleans and delivered meals and produce to the elderly and community members with disabilities.
  • VAYLA New Orleans provided $25,000 of direct emergency aid to young leaders and community members.
  • Go.Be assisted business owners with $1,000 grants targeted to inventory and equipment replacement and debris cleanup
  • Power Coalition for Equity and Justice moved more than $200,000 in direct assistance to both organizations and individuals immediately following Hurricane Ida

For many New Orleanians, life post-Hurricane Ida looks like managing health, physical and financial crises simultaneously. For example, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is helping disaster survivors appeal FEMA claims, negotiate with contractors, tackle illegal evictions, and untangle bureaucratic snags in obtaining disaster unemployment benefits.

Organizations are also looking ahead. Alliance for Affordable Energy, Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, Foundation for Louisiana and others are working to alleviate the root causes and environmental injustice that leads to exacerbated disaster risks and impact.

New Orleans is home to both high levels of need and tremendous assets. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina proved a galvanizing moment for our work in New Orleans. We increased our support for the city and its people and responded strategically to bolster the city’s recovery. The result looks like more than $28 million dedicated to recovery across an array of disciplines, and we’ve remained engaged ever since.

It is in that spirit of staying and remaining committed in support of lasting change that we believe national funders must step up now—and over the longer term. Since Hurricane Katrina, local advocates, community organizers and foundation leaders have made measurable progress toward rebuilding in a way that centers equity for all. With a spirit of resilience and hope that is palpable, they do the tough work of addressing historical inequities that have shaped generational outcomes for the most underserved New Orleanians.  Kresge will continue to support these leaders on the road ahead.

Chantel Rush is the managing director of Kresge’s American Cities Program. Follow the team on Twitter @kresgecities.