New Orleans is using sentiment analysis on federal relief funding

Ryan Johnston at StateScoop: “New Orleans is using data and social-media analysis to gauge how residents want the city to spend $375 million in federal stimulus funding, while quelling concerns of corruption or misuse that still exist from the city’s Hurricane Katrina recovery, officials told StateScoop on Tuesday.

The city government is working with ZenCity, an Israeli data-analysis firm that trawls social media to better understand how residents feel about various issues, to research American Rescue Plan funding. New Orleans is set to receive $375 million in relief funding to stabilize its finances and, “directly address” the economic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the city, said Liana Elliot, the city’s deputy chief of staff. But many residents of the city are still wary of how the city squandered its Federal Emergency Management Agency funding following the natural disaster in 2005.

That caution became apparent almost immediately in online discourse, said Eyal Feder-Levy, ZenCity’s chief executive.

“We saw within the data that conversations about city budgets online in New Orleans were five-times more frequent than normal following the ARPA stimulus funding announcement,” Feder-Levy told StateScoop.

Elliot said what she heard about the budget in public didn’t match the conversations she was having with her colleagues in city government. Residents, she said, had an expectation that the money would help them, rather than go to city agencies…(More)”.