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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 Rhode Island:

  1. Research in Rhode Island indicated that coastal-based industries (especially fishing and tourism) were especially vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Combining payroll and business protection with food processing and packing facilities could help soften the blow from COVID-19 and rebuild more resilient economies. 
  1. GRI found that community organizations and NGO’s are often the first line of support and aiding them would enable them to address unique social and economic needs that are often not addressed in large-scale support programs. In this case it was particularly important for immigrant communities and limited-English families. Meeting these needs of is necessary not only for those populations, but for the recovery of the state economy as a whole.

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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