July 11, 2016

Make Disaster Recovery a Success

Virgil Storr

Vice President, Academic & Student Programs

Stefanie Haeffele

Deputy Director, Academic and Student Programs
Summary

The entangled relationship between public and private entities results in high administrative and overhead costs with little relief to those who need it the most.

Frontline and NPR recently aired a special on the "Business of Disaster" which investigated issues with flood insurance and aid distribution after Hurricane Sandy. In it they find disaster victims have been systematically underpaid on flood insurance claims, aid programs have been slow to distribute funds and homeowners have spent years dealing with regulatory red tape just to get back to the homes and communities they love.

The main takeaway from the special was that the public-private partnerships tasked with implementing disaster recovery programs failed to provide the resources and support communities needed to rebuild after the storm. For instance, the companies who were selected to handle flood insurance found ways to increase their profits and limit payouts. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to adequately oversee the actions of their partners in the flood insurance program and to enforce best practices. Similarly, the NYC "Build It Back" program has failed to effectively distribute funds to homeowners in need and had several issues with unqualified contractors.

The entangled relationship between public and private entities results in high administrative and overhead costs with little relief to those who need it the most. As Brad Gair, a New York City disaster recovery manager, said during the special, "Did we put a bunch of money out? Yes. Is everybody mad? Yes. Did people get what they needed to get back into a home? No."

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