Spotlight Exclusives

Nearly Five Years after Katrina, Oil Spill Compounds Problems for Low-Income Gulf Residents

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As the Gulf Coast oil spill continues to make national headlines, attention is now turning to its impact on vulnerable residents of the area. Yesterday, the Obama Administration unveiled an oil spill recovery proposal that includes nutritional and unemployment assistance for residents affected by the disaster. The proposal also includes $5 million to help state and local governments and nonprofit organizations finance recovery efforts.

Additionally, the White House proposed $15 million to help compensate local fishermen who expected to start off this year۪s fishing season in May. For those whose livelihoods depend on the coastal waters, the impact on the seafood industry has been especially devastating.

Among the hardest hit are low-income Cambodian and Vietnamese fishermen, who find themselves in a uniquely difficult position. Language barriers prevented Asian immigrants from being immediately aware of BP۪s plans to hire local residents to help contain the oil spill. BP has since hired interpreters to ease communication with local fishermen. But many low-income Asian fishermen who have worked in the region for decades are unable to qualify for BP۪s Opportunity Vessels program because they do not own their own boats.

For them, and many other low-income residents, the efforts of local nonprofit organizations are particularly essential. Oxfam America۪s Gulf Coat Oil Spill Response Fund and the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation are collecting donations to support local recovery efforts. And local groups such as Bayou Grace Community Services are collaborating with Gulf Coast communities and other organizations to coordinate volunteer efforts.

Nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill is another catastrophic disaster in slow-motion. Although the full economic, social and ecological impact of the spill is not yet evident, the most vulnerable are already feeling the effects.

“You’ve got fishermen that are losing their livelihoods, that can’t make their payments. There are men in tears in the food stamp lines because the fishing areas are already closed. We’ve got to be helping those men. There’s got to be more government oversight of what BP is doing to make sure the communities’ interests are protected,” said Rev. Tyronne Edwards, director of Zion Travelers Cooperative Center in Phoenix, LA, speaking to Oxfam America.

As the oil spill continues to garner national attention, it is vital that we highlight the toll it is taking on the people of the Gulf Coast.

Posted by Helina


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