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 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.

Key Highlights from the State of Maine:

  1. Because its customer base is primarily in the restaurant business, the fishing industry was hit especially hard by COVID-19, and its structure meant that it fell through the cracks to a large degree in initial rounds of funding. Early in the engagement process, GRI identified this challenge and worked with federal, state, local, and private sector partners to establish a solution-based team that addressed the issues and provided fishers security and protected this important Maine industry. 
  2. The way that food supply chains are set up are often not resilient to shocks and disruptions. In Maine, GRI found that investment in storage and other infrastructure could help to protect food prices if demand fell and simultaneously help prevent shortages if production was disrupted. 

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. 

Project Leads