06 Dec Disaster, Displacement, and Casework: Uncertainty and Assistance after Hurricane Katrina
Sterett, S. M.
Disaster, Displacement, and Casework: Uncertainty and Assistance after Hurricane Katrina
Law & Policy
Casework in the United States in social welfare programs has been limited in what caseworkers can do, as what they do has been tightly structured by rules. Recently, scholars have argued that episodic assistance in disaster brings sympathy in public policy more than restriction. The sympathy after disaster brings new money, and individual assistance is in turn the subject of casework. This article relies upon interviews, observations, and government documents to assess how casework served displaced people after Hurricane Katrina. The article finds that caseworkers after Katrina were caught in a program that would end at some uncertain time, and with new and unclear rules that changed frequently, making the sympathy difficult to enact for many of the poorest people. Casework after disaster is episodic and convened by nonprofits and, after Katrina, paid for by a large grant and then written into statute. Assistance for displaced people is likely to continue, given the expectation of more disasters and rising sea levels. The question of how it is like or unlike other forms of assistance and what sympathy in policy means in helping displaced people is therefore likely to continue to matter.