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Communities Suffer after IRMA

How hurricane season affects Florida’s poorest neighborhoods

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Hurricane Irma touched down on the Florida coast last week, causing widespread damage and displacement. Unfortunately, history has shown that relief aid is dispersed among Florida’s predominantly white areas or tourist destinations like Miami. Poor areas like Overtown and Liberty city receive relief last and are forced to rely on their community’s own man power to begin rebuilding.

This order of priority is, sadly, backwards. The underprivileged communities are the ones that need aide quickly, while wealthy communities generally have the fundamental resources to survive.  Most residents of areas like Overtown and Liberty City can’t even afford to relocate to the discounted hotel rooms nearby, let alone have the funds to cover their basic needs. They are left homeless and helpless until outside help arrives.

Florida has seen this pattern before. When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, the African-American communities were devastated. Help never arrived. It took action from the NAACP and the county commissioner to get resources directed their way.

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The rebuilding effort after the 1992 storm offered hope in the promise of jobs in the community. FEMA gave the city almost 100 million dollars to fund the recovery effort. Unfortunately, most African-American owned businesses’ in the area did not receive work contracts, leaving residents jobless.

Ultimately, Florida’s coastal cities should create a better plan to deal with hurricane season. Underprivileged communities should receive relief first to avoid further impoverishment. Other preparations like formal training and relief programs should be established. By better preparing those affected most by hurricanes, Florida will be able to recover faster with less devastation.

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