Step 1: Engage private sector partners in discussion of workforce housing solutions in the event of a disaster

The ability for businesses to ensure that their employees can live within commuting distance to worksites during the response and recovery phases is key to retaining a skilled workforce and stimulating recovery efforts in a disaster-impacted community.

Large employers are likely to have developed post-disaster contingency plans for retaining workers, including the option of temporary employee housing. After Hurricane Katrina, Folgers Coffee provided on-site temporary housing (including dining facilities) for more than 400 employees to maintain operations at its New Orleans plant. While small and medium-sized businesses do not possess such resources, the community can partner with private-sector developers and contractors to consider solutions for housing, such as temporary locations, and means for funding such temporary housing solutions (such as FEMA’s temporary housing funds).

Step 2: Work with local workforce development stakeholders to develop post-disaster plans for workforce training and retention
Step 2a: The economic recovery team should work with the local workforce investment board (WIB) and other workforce stakeholders to develop post-disaster training solutions. These should address industry needs and be adopted officially as post-disaster plans

This may include working with local community colleges and other job-training providers to assess their capacity to retrain workers. Organizations may need to address new economic realities, which could include different sets of skills and expertise to address the shifting needs of businesses and industries, or attempts to diversify the local economy.

Step 2b: Consider workforce retention strategies that go beyond training, including a temporary wage subsidy program or other creative solutions from the business community

Workers will move, if necessary, where there is available employment after a disaster in order to support their families and themselves. The provision of wages – even on a temporary basis – is key for retaining the community’s skilled labor force.

After September 11th, federal funds were used to provide wage compensation for employees of small and medium-sized businesses directly impacted by the attacks. Regardless of whether they were working or not, employees received wages for up to six months. Businesses noted that this retention program was key to helping them keep the doors open and transition into recovery.

Step 3: Discuss options for temporary transportation alternatives in the event that major transport connectors (bridges, rail, etc.) are severely damaged or destroyed after a disaster

It is critical to provide for workers’ ability to access their worksites after a disaster. Study of commuting patterns will provide important insight. Temporary solutions should be prioritized and implemented as soon as possible to prevent permanent relocations of businesses. For example, ferry service can be added on a temporary basis in the event of a bridge closure. These temporary alternatives are key to ensuring the movement of goods, services and workers that play a critical role in spurring economic recovery.




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