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Will Wells is a longtime Panama City resident who has been homeless for nearly two years — ever since Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to ever hit the Panhandle, hit. In between homeless shelters, Wells sometimes stays at his friend’s trailer at a Federal Emergency Management Agency-operated (FEMA) campground. It's one of several FEMA campgrounds, and the area's largest.  

The October 2018 hurricane left 22,000 Bay County residents homeless in the weeks following the storm and caused nearly $7 billion of total insured losses. The federal government has disbursed $1.2 billion in aid to Bay County, but it's through cobbled-together disaster relief and insurance payout systems where money is paid to county agencies and nonprofits as well as residents and businesses. 

Hundreds of people like Wells are still homeless and/or living in temporary trailers. Others are living in tents as they wait for funding or resources to rebuild. Thousands of people have moved away from the area. “They had all these commercials where they said ‘We’re here for you,’ ‘850-strong,’ ‘Panhandle-Strong,’ and then you call and nothing,” Wells said. “Nobody helps the people who really need it in this town.” 

Ayurella Horn-Muller, a Florida-based reporter, wrote a story for us and Climate Central about this messy recovery process — and how the pandemic, and new hurricane season, are staalling already-slow efforts. 
Read the story.

A trailer sits on a plot of land at the Bay County Fairgrounds, the area’s largest-remaining FEMA campground for Hurricane Michael survivors, on June 12th, 2020. Photo by Andrew Wardlow/Climate Central

It's critical to continue examining the systems in place to help folks recover from disasters — whether that's natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding, or public health disasters like pollution or pandemics. Good disaster reporting looks at how people are faring a year later. Good climate change reporting looks at how places are adapting, growing, and surviving. To achieve racial and economic and environmental justice, we all have to understand how disasters affect those who are most at risk. 

—Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder, Editor, Publisher

P.S. To all subscribers: You're going to get an email from me in the next day or so asking you to click a link to log into your own account on Southerly. I wanted to give a heads up so you know it's not spam — I'm transitioning Southerly over to another platform and donation program as we grow and launch our membership. Logging in will get rid of all the annoying pop-ups. Thanks in advance for understanding! 

Stories worth your time

Ohio Valley Resource spoke to folks in West Virginia about how they cleaned up the Coal River, which was heavily mined for years, and are hoping tourism will revitalize the area. The "staggering economic fallout" from the coronavirus pandemic has stalled some of those plans — but they may actually help grow interest in the region since people want to get out of cities. 

Poet Caroline Randall Williams wrote a New York Times op-ed titled "You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument" that has been circulated around the internet, and I wanted to make sure to include it this week. "To those people it is my privilege to say, I am proof. I am proof that whatever else the South might have been, or might believe itself to be, it was and is a space whose prosperity and sense of romance and nostalgia were built upon the grievous exploitation of black life."

The Louisiana Illuminator has a story on how the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has been fast-tracking permit waivers to industrial companies — effectively allowing them to release more pollution — since the EPA said in March it won't penalize companies if they are noncompliant because of COVID-19. 

John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is being urged to step down after longstanding concerns about his leadership. The New York Times spoke to multiple people — many of whom are Black — who have worked for SFA, and those in the food community in the South, and released a well-reported piece. 

HuffPost and NBCLX investigation found that Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the state-owned power company, has awarded $4.4 billion in contracts to companies hired to repair the extensive damage to the island’s aging electrical grid after Hurricane Maria — and the vast majority have gone to "American firms, including fossil fuel companies, construction firms connected to the Trump administration and consultants such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." 

Photos: New Orleans sanitation workers strike for protections and better pay

Hoppers are demanding higher hourly wages, hazard pay, and PPE during the coronavirus pandemic. View photos from their picket line

Struggling Florida Panhandle towns face tough reopening decisions

The coronavirus pandemic has stalled local economies still reeling from the effects of recent hurricanes. Read the story. Download the PDF with tips on how to stay safe while vacationing. 

News flying under the radar 

Alabama Power decided to hold public meetings on its plans to reduce the dangers from several coal ash ponds. Its first one, in Mobile, was on Monday, and there was a small crowd. As reported, "the Alabama Rivers Alliance, among others, has charged that the utility 'performed virtually no outreach, gave no detailed plans for social distancing precautions, and provided no option for virtual attendance.' As COVID-19 case counts rise, the group said, 'We believe it is irresponsible of them to hold public meetings during this time.'”
Dominion Energy just completed construction of its second offshore wind turbine as part of a pilot project off the coast of Virginia. The Washington Post examines how some lawmakers and clean energy advocates are worried about the exorbitant costs of the project, and what that might mean for ratepayers in a state where Dominion has a monopoly. 

Florida passed a law to protect about 400,000 acres of seagrass along Florida's coast. The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve is in Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties, and is the first new preserve to be designated in more than 30 years. Boating, fishing, and scalloping are still allowed there. Pew has the story. 

A new dataset released this month from North Carolina regulators shows that water supplies for at least 150 public utilities in North Carolina contained some level of toxic PFAS, underscoring the importance of regulating the chemical. Read more details in NC Policy Watch.

After years of work by organizers in Appalachia, the RECLAIM Act, which would invest $1 billion in cleaning up land and water polluted by coal mining, passed as part of a major infrastructure bill. But Ohio Valley Resource says it's likely to get stalled in the Senate because of Mitch McConnell. 
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