Since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, communities in Louisiana have struggled to recover while also dealing with a stream of other disasters, natural and manmade. In August, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, knocking out power, damaging infrastructure, and causing a number of deaths.  

In this recap of a recent webinar, Hurricane Ida: Funding Urgent Needs and Long-Term Recovery, hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, learn how you can be an effective donor supporting Louisiana’s recovery.

CDP President and CEO Patricia McIlreavy moderated the discussion. Panelists included: Tanya Gulliver-Garcia, Director of Learning and Partnerships at CDP, and Jessica Vermilyea, Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response.

The Landscape

I think the pre-disaster landscape was also a disaster.

-Jessica Vermilyea

Addressing the impacts of Hurricane Ida requires addressing the cumulative impact of previous disasters on the areas struck by Ida. Additionally, as climate change intensifies disasters, communities like those in Louisiana will be forced to weather more storms and disasters. This reality has significant implications for how disaster funds should be directed: Infrastructure needs to be repaired and improved to prepare for future disasters, and mental health services will be vital to help communities cope with the repeated trauma.

“Our folks, our citizens, our agencies are all very resilient,” said Vermilyea. “But that doesn't mean they don't get tired. What we're seeing is a lot of weariness around having to respond to multiple disasters.”

Where and When to Give

Consider focusing on lesser-known communities that may not be receiving as much attention as metropolitan areas. The lower parishes were hit “...even harder than New Orleans,” according to Gulliver-Garcia. “We need to support those communities that you've never heard of before and that never ever make the news cycle.”

It’s also important to think about those who evacuated before the storm and those who will leave in the coming weeks and months. Those who left and are unable or unwilling to return will need services -- food, shelter, mental health support -- in the communities they end up in.

The needs created by this storm, and the other disasters that came before Ida, will affect communities for years or decades to come. An effective donor will consider the long-term impacts of Hurricane Ida and commit to staying in the region beyond the immediate moment. 

What and How to Give

Send cash: Gasoline shortages, infrastructure destruction, and power outages have conspired to make in-kind donations particularly challenging. 

Work together: Gulliver-Garcia said, “If you're going to fund, especially in the recovery stage … start coordinating and working with other funders in New Orleans and in the Greater New Orleans area.
 There are lots of funders who have a history of doing this kind of work, especially through the Greater New Orleans Funders Network.”

Don’t forget COVID: COVID-19 rages on and exacerbates the challenges presented by Ida and other disasters. The pandemic is especially problematic in rural areas with low vaccination rates, where access may be limited and requires people to take time off from work. With reduced medical care capacity, the vaccination process may prove more difficult.

Focus areas: Provide support for housing, food, and mental health. These essential services will be needed in the short and long term. 

As Vermilyea puts it, "We're always in recovery. We can never get to mitigation and we can never get to how to do it better." You have the opportunity to make sure that the response to this disaster is different. Incorporating resiliency into your giving strategy will help impacted communities face future challenges. 

Watch the full webinar at The Center for Disaster Philanthropy.