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 Vermont:

  1. Engagement and analysis highlighted that COVID-19 had severe impacts not only on the weddings and events industry but also on the large number of interdependent businesses and independent contractors it supports. Early rounds of aid made it hard for these businesses to access support, and the potential to miss out on an entire “season” of events, put this economic ecosystem at risk. 
  1. In Vermont, small, local dairy farms are vital parts of the rural economy and overall recovery. While production was not directly impacted in most cases, the value chain that the product relies on and large customers (i.e. schools and restaurants) were shut down or disrupted. To overcome this unforeseen challenge, GRI Incorporated stakeholder experiences to inform recommendations for grants and funding towards enabling dairy processing farms to pivot operations and access new markets.

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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