The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in recent history in terms of the scale of its impacts. It is fundamentally unique from other disasters because it does not have a distinct start, nor will it have a clear end. Additionally, every community across the country is facing the dual crises of the public health emergency and severe economic disruption, and frequently the solutions to one are at odds with the other. Traditional disaster recovery processes often rely on the assumption that a disaster will have a distinct end. This has created a complex set of unforeseen challenges for FEMA and state recovery offices.
Shortly after the pandemic began to have significant effects on U.S. public health and economic systems, GRI undertook a regional effort to develop Rapid Needs Assessments in each of the six New England states to provide to FEMA, state, and local decision makers. FEMA Region 1 asked GRI to examine the economic impact of COVID-19 on each of the states to quickly identify and provide insight on complex interdependencies, unaddressed problems, and economic recovery priorities.
In each of the states, the Rapid Needs Assessments enabled federal, state, and local stakeholders to make real-time decisions, build solutions-based teams, and progress effectively and efficiently through traditional national disaster protocols within a uniquely dynamic environment. Economic recovery efforts continue across the country, and GRI continues to support recovery in Region 1 through Operational Support Liaisons that are working directly with the states and solutions-based teams to operationalize the priorities and actions identified in the Rapid Needs Assessments and through close engagement with regional stakeholders.
By leveraging its resilience expertise and deploying its Integrated Resilience Enhancement Solution, GRI was able to effectively identify over 75 ‘resilience’ indicators that help assess the degree to which communities are resilient. These indicators can tell whether or not a community will likely recover quickly when disasters strike. Those 75 indicators cover the economic, social, and physical infrastructure elements of a community.
In a recent News@Northeastern article, Jim McPherson, the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force Leader for Region 1 of FEMA, calls GRI “our secret weapon.”
With GRI’s work, FEMA Region 1 was able to get 163 childcare centers funded with $10,000 grants, which enabled parents throughout the Connecticut economy to keep working.
This Resilience Research is monumental in GRI’s history, and represents the greater need for resilience to play a larger role in society’s structure. To learn more about GRI’s Integrated Resilience Enhancement Solution, click here.