COVID-19

Pandemic complicates emergency response to Hurricane Laura

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 28, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
HTML EMBED:
COPY
A couple leave the hotel in Galveston, Texas, where they had taken shelter from Hurricane Laura on Thursday. Ellie Cherryhomes/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Pandemic complicates emergency response to Hurricane Laura

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 28, 2020
A couple leave the hotel in Galveston, Texas, where they had taken shelter from Hurricane Laura on Thursday. Ellie Cherryhomes/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

 The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated emergency response efforts for those who had to evacuate to escape Hurricane Laura in Texas and Louisiana. The need for social distancing means emergency officials had to find alternatives to big, crowded evacuation centers.

What’s the best place for emergency officials to put thousands of evacuees when they arrive in a city seeking temporary shelter from a hurricane during a pandemic? Bryce Bencivengo is the spokesman for the Austin, Texas, emergency management office.

“With kind of our options being limited, we are using this time hotel rooms,” he said.

The city has paid to put 3,000 people in 21 hotels in the area, Bencivengo said. The state of Louisiana booked 1,700 rooms for evacuees.

Last week, the ailing hotel sector in Texas was at less than 50% capacity due to the pandemic. Now in cities like Austin and San Antonio, it’s at nearly 100%, according to Justin Bragiel, general counsel with the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association.

“It’s not the kind of business we’re hoping for, but there can be economic activity that results from it,” he said.

Bragiel said the state is paying the hotel bills and then will seek reimbursement from the federal government.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

Are we going to see another wave of grocery store shortages?

Well, public health officials are warning that we could see a second wave of the virus before the end of the year. And this time retailers want to be prepared if there’s high demand for certain products. But they can’t rely totally on predictive modeling. People’s shopping habits have ebbed and flowed depending on the state of COVID-19 cases or lockdowns. So, grocers are going to have to trust their guts.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

Read More

Collapse

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.

There’s a LOT to celebrate!

It’s National Pumpkin Spice Day, the last day of our fall fundraiser, and thousands of fans like you have invested in Marketplace.

You inspire us, and your support makes us stronger, especially now.