Boost local capacity to manage recovery programs.
State and local governments face severe constraints when it comes to staff expertise and turnover, case management systems, and internal political transitions, all of which can weigh down federal recovery efforts. Integrating emergency management planning into communities’ long-term housing and growth plans and then making sure those plans lead to honest resident conversations during calm times will help determine appropriate housing priorities after a disaster.
Expand federal funding to help more communities.
Government-wide investments in disaster mitigation and preparedness are severely underresourced and underplanned for the frequency, severity, and variability of disasters that the country will face because of climate change and increased urbanization. HUD is increasingly supporting disaster mitigation infrastructure as part of its CDBG-DR funding.
But without permanent statutory authority, only places that experienced a severe disaster in the recent past can get the resources to prepare for future disasters. That requirement could leave many communities without the resources they need to prepare for the future.
Streamline the federal disaster management process.
Collaboration across the federal agencies charged with any stage of the disaster management portfolio must become more seamless for the localities and individual households that are in harm’s way. Our study found that CDBG-DR has many redundant or overly restrictive program rules for procurement, environmental impacts, and monitoring requirements.
And many of these rules vary widely between disasters because CDBG-DR is not a permanently authorized federal program. The addition of new rules, such as additional financial oversights for Puerto Rico since 2017, rather than capacity-building assistance is counterproductive to household recovery.
Center the affected households—especially low-income renters.
Reforming the national disaster management framework should always center the affected communities and prioritize providing the best security for as many families as possible. Concerns about who can access needed assistance, and how federal policy should ensure that the most vulnerable people receive resources have grown in recent years. Equitable disaster recovery includes having a better sense of who and where different populations reside before a disaster like Dorian hits and constantly assessing their needs after.
Gaps and inconsistencies in the national recovery framework become apparent after every disaster. The mix of private insurance, charitable donations, temporary and limited public assistance for shelter and food, and long-term publicly funded recovery of local housing, infrastructure, and economies is different each time. This is partially for good reason, as damages and local needs change with every disaster.
But a robust and principled recovery should comprehensively plan for any hazard–and no one should fall through the cracks.
Read the full article about preparing for stronger hurricanes by Carlos Martín at Urban Institute.
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