We are now less than a week away from the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. After 12 long months, how are people faring in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?

Today, the Institute's Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch project released "One Year after Katrina" (pdf)-- the most exhaustive study to date on the status of the Gulf one year after the storms.

Drawing on over 250 statistical indicators and in-depth reports on issues from housing and education to jobs and hurricane readiness, the report finds that "Gulf Coast rebuilding continues at a glacial pace -- and the region won't be able to come back unless national leaders confront fundamental barriers to renewal."

You can read a full copy of the report here. (pdf)

"Despite promises from national leaders to 'do what it takes' to rebuild the Gulf, the region's recovery has been left to move at a snail's pace - with tragic results," says Chris Kromm, co-author of the report and director of the Institute. "Without a revived national commitment, the Gulf and its people won't come back."

Despite important signs of progress, the study finds that recovery remains stalled on the key issues that will shape the Gulf Coast's future:

Lack of HOUSING still keeps tens of thousands of Gulf residents from coming back home. Aid for homeowners in Louisiana and Mississippi was approved 10 months after the storms, and none has been disbursed. Little money has been earmarked for rebuilding rental units-none in Mississippi- and rents are skyrocketing. Eighty per cent of public housing in New Orleans is still closed, despite minimal storm damage, and Mississippi residents learned that three coastal facilities will be shut down soon.

Problems continue to plague SCHOOLS in the region, making it difficult for many families to return. Only 57 of the 117 public schools in New Orleans before Katrina are scheduled to open in the 2006-2007 school year.

CONTRACTING SCANDALS and other special-interest dealings continue to plague the recovery. The Institute report finds $136.7 million in corporate fraud in Katrina-related contracts, and government investigators have highlighted contracts worth $428.7 million that are troubling due to lack of oversight or misappropriation. Altogether, the Institute finds that corporate contracting abuse has cost taxpayers 50 times more than widely-publicized scandals involving individuals wrongfully collecting assistance.

Threats to the ENVIRONMENT are exposing residents to a wide range of toxins and making many think twice about returning to the region. Federal officials also have yet to commit the resources to restore coastal wetlands-the region's best defense against future storms.

The 96-page report also finds that those hurt most by the nation's failure to help rebuild the Gulf Coast are the same people who suffered most from the storms of 2005.

"The people left behind in the evacuation of New Orleans after Katrina are the same people left behind in rebuilding - the poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and children, mostly African-American," says Prof. William Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University evacuated from New Orleans. "We need them to come back - but so far, lack of federal help has made this mostly a grassroots recovery."

The report is a part of the Institute's Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch project, launched in October 2005 to document and investigate the rebuilding of the Southern Gulf in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Founded in 1970, the Institute is a non-profit research and education center, and publisher of the award-winning Southern Exposure magazine.

For more information and copies of "One Year after Katrina," please visit:

"One Year after Katrina" report (pdf):
http://www.reconstructionwatch.org/images/One_Year_After.pdf
Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch: www.reconstructionwatch.org
Institute for Southern Studies: www.southernstudies.org

UPDATE: I cross-posted this at DKos, glad to see it hit the recommended list for a while.