New Orleans is “meeting the needs” of the roughly 9,600 people now sheltering in the city across 35 hotels after evacuating for Hurricane Laura, Mayor Latoya Cantrell said Tuesday.
“We are prepared for the long haul, given the conditions that we know are on the ground in our affected parishes due to Hurricane Laura,” Cantrell said.
The city’s resource center for evacuees is serving hundreds of people a day, providing on-site counseling, medical care, and prescription assistance, said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the director of the New Orleans Health Department. Evacuees are being shuttled to the site from hotels via two New Orleans Regional Transit Authority busses.
Walgreens and CVS are on-site, as is Catholic Charities. The resource center has also received donations collected by the United Way and Junior League. There’s a special need for feminine hygiene products, formula and diapers.
EMS crews have responded to 72 emergency calls from evacuees since Aug. 28. To meet the increased demand, the state is sending 30 surge ambulances to the city, said Colin Arnold, the director of the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Hotel shelters have been run by the Department of Children and Family services, but that management will shift to the Red Cross, Arnold said.
The update came amid the ongoing peak of hurricane season, and city officials stressed that they are working on evacuation plans for the city, given the influx of Laura evacuees.
“We are in the high point of hurricane season. It is in no way declining,” the mayor said.
She also stressed that the city remains vastly underfunded as a result of the pandemic. Cantrell said the city is expecting $9 million in round two of CARES Act funding, down from the $41 million requested.
“At the end of the day, it has a direct impact on the operational budget and expenses of the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said.
“We haven't received our money,” she later added. “I'm feeling like Jerry Maguire, you know, with what's his name, Cuba Gooding Jr., and he just said, ‘Show me the money.’ That's kind of like where I am right now.”
Despite that, evacuees will be given whatever services they need, “however long it takes,” Cantrell said, “until they're able to return home. So there will be no thought of saying: ‘Hey, not my city,’ or ‘Hey, the time is up.’ That's not gonna come from our city.”
But city leadership will be pushing for more funding, she added.