Do you remember your walks to school as a child? Meeting your best friend down the block and trekking the 5-6 blocks through tree-lined streets and possibly stopping by the local bakery for an early morning snack. How about the beautiful view of the nice lawns across the street from the well-groomed playground? This isn’t a throwback to Norman Rockwell days, these were the same streets in inner-city neighborhoods a generation ago. Unfortunately, inner-city systemic poverty combined with the 2020 riots have turned a walk to school into a walk through a war zone. This is the perfect time to use creative financing to return inner-city blight into revitalized and flourishing spaces of promise through FEMA funding.
In 2018 FEMA approved $17.5 million for homeowner collaboration disaster cleaning efforts across the nation. Cities and counties could create ordinances in a coordinated manner with FEMA to have massive clean-ups of their protest affected neighborhoods such as Englewood, Chicago. In 2015 Baltimore was denied FEMA funds to repair and rebuild their areas ruined in the Freddie Gray uprising though many of the areas were already in shambles. Our city and national governments have systematically denied minority areas revitalization grants. If the National Guard can be funded to deploy in protests then national money can be used for cities and minority areas. Before the protests Englewood, Chicago had over 600 abandoned buildings and the highest poverty rate in Chicago. Now, it has lost stores, community centers and there’s damage to schools. Where will Chicago and other cities get the money to fix these issues along with the hundreds of issues that were already a part of systemically ignored minority neighborhoods? According to the city’s mayor, there’s already a $700 million revenue loss from Covid-19 not including costs of the protests.
Comparatively speaking, in 2015 Washington, Illinois was devastated by a tornado causing the destruction of a few hundred homes and businesses. After the tornado, they received US SBA low-interest loans and business grants. The community is now booming with businesses and homes with very low violence. FEMA and the government consider violence and/or deaths as the main component to their definition of devastation which apply to the protests. The 2020 protests were extremely violent with tens of thousands of people arrested, buildings burned and entire business districts looted. A key comparison of the devastation is death rates. The Washington tornado killed 6 people while at least 12 died during the 2020 protests. FEMA’s grants, unemployment, and SBA loans could turn poor communities into a strong community in less time than city grants and TIF funds are settled for regrowth. All cities that were devastated by the protests have great business opportunities across their devastated areas but their neighborhoods are as important as their downtown areas.
If minority neighborhoods are not focused upon by national funds through equal distribution into protest devastated areas then protests will continue. And they should. The protests were an example of inept financing to rebuild or sustain minority communities. In local politics, money’s normally distributed by tax bases but minority areas have less density than most areas meaning fewer taxes to restore and reform their needs. These facts aren’t the only matter, we must realize that the nation has subjugated minority communities to poverty as well so why should cities have all the burden? The federal government should funnel money into creating business-especially small business as it’s the core of our national economy. As businesses grow, violence decreases. Violence costs taxpayers millions a year in increased emergency assistance. If these areas stay dirty, abandoned, and violent, what business will grow? It’s not the chicken or the egg question. We need the chicken first that will hatch the eggs of small business prosperity. All of the FEMA efforts that are brought forth in natural disasters must be enforced for success.
Unlike, struggling cities that have more demands for city and community services, FEMA is not designated to just one location or one fund. They have a plethora of resources from utilizing the expertise and expansive workforce of the National Armed Guard to billions of dollars from massive departments that monies can be collected for operations. Cities are consistently under more strain from changes in technology to complete and compete with cleaning up whereas FEMA has state of the art resources updated and created. Local politicians would be smart to create referendums insisting that the federal government funnel FEMA into their devastated areas-the statistics are there. The future of America is fixing the mistakes of our past.
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