Navigating the Federal System
The federal government is a significant resource for disaster preparedness and post-disaster economic recovery. Yet, navigating the labyrinth of various agencies, programs and requirements can be an intimidating process. This section is designed to help economic developers understand the issues in order to effectively access disaster recovery resources in the federal system.
Limited funds, a lack of flexibility and inconsistent requirements are the primary challenges involved with accessing federal funds to restore a local economy after a disaster.
- Limited funds for business and economic recovery – The amount of federal money available for business and economic recovery is much smaller than the dollars allocated to address humanitarian needs. EDOs need to educate municipal leaders and the community on the need to expend funds on priority recovery projects, as well as to patch together resources from multiple sources for business needs.
- Lack of flexibility in the use of federal funds – Typically, federal funds are designated for specific purposes and do not provide much flexibility to meet the myriad needs of post-disaster business recovery. The time-consuming application process and bureaucracy associated with the use of federal funds (e.g., documentation to prove there is no duplication of benefits) can be a significant burden on a disaster-impacted community.
- Inconsistent requirements among different federal agencies – Many federal agencies have different, and sometimes competing, requirements for the use of funds. As EDOs and businesses look to assemble funds from a variety of sources, meeting these requirements means more time and costs in an already challenging post-disaster environment.
Communities can prepare for a disaster by taking the following steps to become familiar with federal agencies and the financial and technical assistance they offer.
Step 1: Identify Federal Agencies and their Resources; Work to Build Relationships
- The lead economic development organization for a community should assume the task of identifying the appropriate federal agencies (including their programs and resources) that will provide assistance in both disaster preparedness and the post-disaster economic recovery process. Communities in rural areas may work with different federal agencies than those in urban areas. The Guide to Federal Programs developed to help users navigate Federal agencies and their programs is a useful resource.
- Identify the relevant federal agency representatives for your community and develop a document with detailed contact information (including cell numbers where appropriate). A federal agency list template can serve as a guide for building a customized list. Update the list on a regular basis.
- Distribute the list to key economic and community stakeholders for their reference.
- Work to build relationships with these federal agency contacts prior to a disaster to facilitate strong partnership during the recovery process.
Step 2: Understand Federal Programs and their Requirements for Post-Disaster Recovery
- Discuss with federal partners how these program funds have been used effectively in other communities to spur economic recovery after a disaster.
- Develop an understanding of individual program requirements by reading eligibility information or discussing it with federal agency contacts to see if there is flexibility in a post-disaster situation. This is important if a community wants to advocate for waivers for particular federal requirements.
For more information, see suggested activities for accessing federal resources after a disaster.
These activities should be a part of a larger process for preparing your community for a disaster.
- FEMA sponsered National Disaster Recovery Framework provides a flexible structure that enables disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. The guide can be downloaded directly at National Disaster Recovery Framework: Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation (September 2011). The BCLC has published an article on what businesses should now about the new disaster recovery framework.
- The Federal Government recently developed a web-based resource tool, www.RestoreTheGulf.gov, to assist communities impacted by the Deepwater Gulf Oil Spill. The Guide to Federal Programs helps users to navigate through the Federal government’s resources and programs, which can be used in the event of a disaster. There is a section devoted to economic recovery.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a list of federal agencies and organizations with preparedness, relief and recovery resources to address disasters and emergencies.
- Th U.S. Government has developed DisasterAssistance.gov to provide information on how someone might be able to get help from the U.S. Government before, during and after a disaster.
- The International Economic Development Council developed a list of federal agencies in 2010, which describes the various federal agencies and their programs that relate to economic development and economic recovery.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL PROGRAMS FOR POST-DISASTER ECONOMIC RECOVERY:
- U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) programs
- U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) Disaster Recovery Assistance program
- U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Assistance program
- U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Disaster Assistance Fund program
- U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) programs