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Whiter Communities Received More Federal Buyouts After Disasters: NPR


The home in the Lost Valley area of ​​Manville, N.J. It is a part of a federal disaster program.

Claire Harbage / NPR


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Claire Harbage / NPR

The home in the Lost Valley area of ​​Manville, N.J. It is a part of a federal disaster program.

Claire Harbage / NPR

For many families, the nightmare of a catastrophic flood is only just getting started when the waters recede. But that nightmare – one that has become more common than the United States – may be worse depending on who you are.

An NPR investigation found that there is a disproportionate cause of the disaster. Federal Disaster Aid is a cost-benefit calculation designed to minimize taxpayer risk. That is the money that is the most important thing in the first place. That mirrors the existing racial wealth gap in the United States.

NPR analyzed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency database of more than 40,000 property acquisitions, or buyouts. It then turns those lots into open space.

The FEMA database was in the neighborhood, and it was even more than 85 percent white and non-Hispanic. For context, the U.S. is 62 percent white and non-Hispanic.

Search the data for yourself below.

NPR obtained the FEMA under the Freedom of Information Act. We then used the five-digit ZIP codes associated with the buyout data with U.S. Census Bureau data is demographics. We chose Census Bureau data sets for the best time frame of each buyout record.

Some ZIP codes won't come up with many – or any – records, which could mean that FEMA did not buy there.

But other ZIP codes have hundreds of records. After the Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the database shows hundreds of buyouts along the East Coast in cities like Manville, N.J. (08835) where part of our investigation focused. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in places like Pearlington, M.S. (39572) which is close to where that catastrophic storm made landfall. Even more than 1,600 buyouts dating back to 1995.

The database also includes more than just flooding: A 1998 landslide in dozens of buyouts in Kelso, Wash. (98626), and in 1991, an ice storm wreaked havoc across parts of Indiana (46060 and 46952, among others) according to the database.

Below, you can search for FEMA buyouts in your zip code or any other part of the country. Any records found will be returned with the most recent ones first. The federal "Fiscal Year" was released. You can also download the entire database.

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