Soon after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Susan Feeney and three women friends who worked at The Times-Picayune in the 1980’s started The Friends of The Times-Picayune Relief Fund to provide support to people in need who work at the paper.
Feeney talked with Nieman Fellows in the spring of 2007 about the circumstances of families who the fund has helped. Just over $300,000 has been raised. More information can be found at www.friendsofthetimespicayune.com/
“Katrina Fatigue: Listeners Say They’ve Heard Enough”
— Susan FeeneyWe knew that newspaper employees needed money, so that’s where we started, and there were about 150 employees and their families who signed up. It’s at about 190 families now; several families have left, but what’s most troubling to me is in even the last few weeks several more people said, “Can I still sign up? I thought that my family could make it and we just can’t.” That tells you a lot: It doesn’t go away.
People thought, well, we have some insurance. But the insurance wasn’t anywhere near enough. They are paying the mortgage on their old gutted house, paying the homeowner’s insurance on that house that is totally unlivable. People continue to pay this because they’ll never get another policy after they rebuild.
So they’re paying exorbitant rents somewhere else—the stresses are enormous. And there have been an incredible number of divorces and couples splitting, and there’s a family now in which the guy’s wife left with the kids because it’s just too hard to live there. He has to keep his job and his health care benefits at the Picayune because he’s dealing with depression. It’s just enormous. The fallout does not end.