A new survey has confirmed that Black and Latino residents, and those with lower incomes, reported the highest rates of property and income loss after Hurricane Harvey. It’s a reminder that while hurricanes may be blind to race and class, the recovery process after the storm often isn’t.
Previous hurricanes (like Hurricane Katrina) have shown that in America, people of color and low-income people have the hardest time bouncing back following a disaster. Trickling information hinted that the same would be true after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, but a survey has now confirmed what this looks like today. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted its research between October 17 and November 20 after interviewing more than 1,600 residents across 24 counties.
This Kaiser Family Foundation survey, released Tuesday, shows that 66 percent of Texas residents responding in Harris County and other counties along the Gulf coast that were hard hit suffered property damage, employment disruptions, and/or a loss of income due to Hurricane Harvey, the Category 4 storm that killed more than 80 people in Texas. Only 26 percent of people who applied for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration said the agencies approved their applications.
The report makes it clear that people of color and poor people were impacted the hardest.
The negative impacts on Latino residents were largely connected to employment issues, according to the survey. This means a respondent or family member experienced job loss, a reduction in work hours, or unpaid missed days of work. For their Black neighbors, employment loss was a big problem, too—coupled with property and vehicle damage.
The report goes on:
Not surprisingly, those with lower incomes – who are less likely to hold salaried jobs and more likely to work on an hourly or contract basis – are more likely to report adverse effects on employment and income as a result of the storm. However, the income disparity is not limited to employment effects; lower- and middle-income individuals are also more likely to report damage to their homes compared to those with higher incomes.
The findings align with prior research, which has shown that a person’s income will determine how they do after a hurricane.
This isn’t to say wealthy people aren’t impacted when natural disasters strike. They are, most definitely. In the Texas survey, more than half of those living 400 percent above the federal poverty level reported Hurricane Harvey dealt them a blow. The point is that hurricanes fuck over poor people worse.
Race plays a big role too. The report notes that Hispanic residents at all levels of income were more likely than white residents to have hours cut back at work. It continues:
Nearly six in ten (58 percent) Hispanics who report incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) say this happened, compared with three in ten lower-income Blacks (31 percent) and two in ten lower-income whites (19 percent). And for those with self-reported incomes above 200 percent of poverty, Hispanics are almost twice as likely as whites to say a family member had their hours cut back (37 percent versus 20 percent).
The storm also had more subtle impacts. Thirteen percent of residents surveyed reported their mental health has declined since Harvey. Past research from the American Psychological Association has shown people of color exhibit more mental health symptoms from natural disasters, due to their income levels and access to healthcare. In Texas, Black and Latino residents were least likely to have support networks, a key component to coping with the stress and trauma that accompanies natural disasters.
Clearly, the post-Harvey crisis continues to unfold. As the new year approaches, residents still need help applying for disaster assistance, repairing their homes, finding affordable permanent housing, and getting medical care.
The hurricane might have passed, but a dark cloud remains towering over these Texas families. It’ll take more than time to blow it away.