It's been three and a half years since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and communities across South Louisiana are still struggling to rebuild. Today revelers in the region took a breather to celebrate Mardi Gras. Thousands of people ate, danced and watched huge floats parade down Canal Street in New Orleans and down Main Streets in smaller towns across the Gulf.

But the Gulf Coast is still in crisis -- tens of thousands of people are struggling to return to places like New Orleans, to find affordable housing, and to attain decent healthcare. So this Fat Tuesday, make sure you take a moment to celebrate the Gulf's victories before getting back to the hard work of rebuilding the region.

Mardi Gras Index 2009


Louisiana's 2009 projected budget shortfall: $2 billion

Number of blighted or empty homes in New Orleans: 70,000 

Amount provided to the state of Louisiana in the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act: $3.8 billion

Amount of economic stimulus Louisiana Governor Jindal has threatened to reject: $100 million

Amount by which rent increased in the metro area since Hurricane Katrina: 52 percent 

Number of families nationwide receiving Disaster Housing Assistance Program vouchers, which are scheduled to expire in March 2009: 31,000 

Percent by which school enrollment is down in New Orleans since Katrina: 23 

Number of national and local organizations that signed onto a letter calling on the Obama Administration to create a Gulf Coast Civic Works Program to rebuild communities in the region: 140

Number of people that could be employed to rebuild their neighborhoods and local infrastructure in a Gulf Coast Civic Works Project: 100,000

Amount by which Louisiana's wetlands were reduced in the last century: 1,875 square miles

Percentage of residents in New Orleans' compared to pre-Katrina levels: 73.7 

Percent of Road Home recipients rebuilding in New Orleans that had insufficient resources to cover their damages: 81 

Estimated cost it would take to renovate Charity Hospital instead of building a new $1.2 billion complex in mid-town New Orleans: $484 million

Percentage decrease in the number of public housing units in New Orleans compared with the number occupied before Hurricane Katrina: 80

Federal aid meant to be available to the Gulf Coast for permanent rebuilding work that has not yet been delivered by FEMA: $3.9 billion  

All sources on file with the Institute for Southern Studies; for more information, e-mail sue@southernstudies.org.