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 New Hampshire:

  1. GRI examined the interdependent challenges to resilient recovery and adaptation moving forwards, including in education and workforce challenges. A key issue in New Hampshire and many other rural states is that broadband access, or lack thereof, was a critical barrier to continuing delivering servicesGoing forwards, broadband access across the state and nation will prove critical to resilience during disruptions and expanding educational opportunities in general. 
  1. Engagement and analysis also highlighted the unique challenges that small and micro-businesses face in areas where the economy is tied to seasonal tourism. COVID-19’s impacts during the summer meant that seasonal businesses and the tourism industry face the prospect of a lost season. The timing of COVID-19, though far from over, casts uncertainty for business owners who rely on summer revenue to sustain them through the winter. 

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. 

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