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 Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

  1. In Massachusetts, higher education and research institutions are major drivers of the state’s economy. The pandemic has created a wealth of uncertainty, significant costs, massive lost revenue, and unprecedented educational changes for all institutions. Some of the smaller institutions of higher education likely require specific intervention if they are to survive.  
  2. In addition to their educational and developmental importance, K-12 institutions provide childcare and food services. These services are critical for ensuring that parents, especially those working in hourly wage roles who cannot work remotely, are able to return to work.  
  3. COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges in the affordable housing market and put strain on residents and landlords. Unemployment benefits and the one-time stimulus payment have helped many at-risk Massachusetts residents make rent and mortgage payments. A resilient recovery from COVID-19 will depend on simultaneous relieving the housing burden and preventing a broader housing crisis that requires perpetual government intervention.  

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