Stephen Flynn in News@Northeastern: Meet the ‘Secret Weapon’ that Helps Distribute Money During the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Stephen Flynn
The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted damage throughout the U.S. To guide the flow of emergency funding for the people and businesses in New England that need the most help, the federal government has turned to Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute, known as GRI.
“GRI is our secret weapon,” says Jim McPherson, the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force Leader for Region 1 of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “They’re doing a service to our country.”
The Northeastern institute has received funding by FEMA to help each of the six New England states identify areas of need and provide the documentation necessary to qualify for federal emergency funding. Both steps—defining and documenting the needs—have been complicated by an emergency that is unprecedented.
“We have 50 states in crisis—we’ve never had that before,” says McPherson, whose region encompasses New England. “We’re all stretched right now.”
FEMA and other federal agencies typically offer emergency support after communities have been struck by natural disasters—hurricanes, tornados, wildfires. The pandemic has complicated assistance efforts because the effects of COVID-19 are both far-reaching and ongoing. Vaccines that may quell the coronavirus won’t be widely distributed for many months—which leaves the U.S. to face a winter of illness that scientists forecast will be more severe than the initial surges of the spring and summer.
“We have a public health emergency that is all-consuming—and at the same time we have this profound economic disruption,” says Stephen Flynn, founding director of the Global Resilience Institute. “From the start, there was a need to really step up quickly and identify the most urgent needs that will support recovery. But COVID-19 is different from a hurricane, it’s different from an earthquake, because the pandemic is ongoing, and we don’t know when it will be over.