FEMA’s Disasters

Washington Post reporters spent 2021 traversing the corners of the country most ravaged by natural disasters to find out if the government really has people’s backs in the long-term. The reporters conducted 300 interviews and several databases, filed dozens of records requests, and analyzed thousands of pages of individual Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) case records and other documents. What they found was that FEMA was regularly not providing help when it was needed for survivors of disasters. They chronicled the agency denying help to Black families living on land passed down since a generation after slavery, abandoning poor families without assistance for transitioning out of FEMA trailer parks as they shut down, and denying aid to 90% of disaster survivors, often for minor errors in their paperwork. This reporting led to major process changes at FEMA to directly address these issues, and bipartisan legislation currently working its way through Congress. 

Wires and Fires

Electrical fires are often treated as accidents in Milwaukee, but an investigation by reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that they are actually foreseeable tragedies that hit Black renters by far the hardest, with the government doing little to fix the problem. As part of their reporting, the team hired a master electrician to inspect a random selection of homes in Milwaukee’s hardest-hit area, which found that 80% of single and two-family rental properties in the study area had serious electrical problems. The investigation prompted an immediate outcry by leaders in state government and prompted city officials to reexamine and potentially restore an inspection program previously mothballed by state lawmakers. The city is also launching a tenant education program around the issue of electrical safety and is examining potential requirements for city agencies to better document electrical fires.

Race and Risk: HUD’s $67 Million Plan and Housing Deal

This first appeared as a front-page story in which journalists Craig Flournoy and Randy Lee Loftis expose the government’s plans to force thousands of poor black residents to live in a Superfund toxic site.