September 6, 2023

EDA Disaster Support is Both Immediate and Long-Term

Disasters can strike any community in the country. Being prepared to respond to them, and prevent future damage, are critical elements of America’s economic and national security policies.

September is National Preparedness Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies.

In the weeks leading up to National Preparedness Month 2023, parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas were hit by Hurricane Idalia. The state of Hawaii continues to deal with the threat of wildfires just weeks after deadly fires destroyed much of Lahaina on Maui, one of Hawaii’s most historic towns.

The data is clear: disasters are becoming more frequent, and more violent. 30 years ago, billion-dollar disasters struck approximately every three months on average. Today, billion-dollar disasters occur almost every three weeks in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As time between disasters gets shorter, so does the time and resources available to respond, recover, and prepare for future events.

Through immediate economic recovery coordination, funding for strategic planning, economic recovery, and long-term resilience and preparedness, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) plays a leading role within the federal government to help states and communities deal with disasters and emergencies.

Leading Federal Economic Recovery Support

In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic disaster, EDA is often called upon to serve as the Coordinating Agency for the Economic Recovery Support Function (ERSF) on behalf of the Department of Commerce. EDA coordinates with federal partners in regional disaster recovery efforts using our existing network of Economic Development Districts (EDDs), University Centers, and other key partners.

After the recent devastating Maui fire, EDA was activated by FEMA to serve as coordinator in Hawaii, helping businesses and communities get back on their feet. The Hawaii mission follows a busy past two years for EDA’s disaster recovery team.  In 2022 and 2023, EDA coordinated missions in Arkansas, California, Florida, Guam, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Vermont.

Since the early 1990s, EDA received approximately $3.2 billion in disaster supplemental funding to support disaster recovery and resilience.

EDA’s mission on Florida’s Gulf Coast began in October 2022, shortly after Hurricane Ian hit the region. The storm left 2.6 million residents without power and caused insurance losses of $12.6 billion. A month later, the state was hit by Hurricane Nicole. EDA went into local communities meeting with affected groups, listening closely to how regions, cities and counties envisioned the way to build back – stronger and more resilient.  Partnering with Regional Planning Councils, EDA held workshops to connect localities with funding agencies and delivered sessions on “Industries of the Future,” helping communities consider ways to diversify their economies with new opportunities that could keep them strong in the future.

“The ERSF Team is proud to help Florida communities as they work to rebuild better than before with EDA’s support,” said EDA ERSF Mission Lead Milton Cochran. “These outreach efforts are helping to raise awareness of Federal resources available across the state, including in the most economically distressed communities.”

Click Here to Read More About EDA’s Current and Past ERSF Missions.

Funding Opportunities for a Resilient Recovery

Since the early 1990s, EDA received approximately $3.2 billion in disaster supplemental funding to support disaster recovery and resilience.

Disaster recovery funding has been used for a wide range of projects including planning, workforce development, entrepreneurship, capitalizing revolving loan funds for businesses, and infrastructure projects. For example: annual flooding regularly disrupts Moberly, Missouri. The city was awarded a $4.8 million investment through the 2019 Disaster Supplemental to complete water and wastewater infrastructure improvements, correcting the problem, and providing relief for business owners.

This year, EDA published the FY23 Disaster Supplemental Notice of Funding Opportunity. The program makes $483 million in funding available to regions impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona, wildfires, flooding, and other Presidentially declared major natural disasters throughout the United States in 2021 and 2022. EDA anticipates making the first grant awards for this program in the coming months and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

Click Here to Read More Stories of EDA’s Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Projects.

Planning for the Future 

With an increase in natural disasters and climate change, EDA is focused on helping communities build back stronger, safer, and in a more resilient way. Resilience is the ability of a community or region to anticipate, withstand, and bounce back from various disruptions to its economic base, including natural disasters.  Some examples of EDA’s effective leadership in community resilience include:

  • Putting Resilience into Practice in North Carolina. In 2020, EDA invested $1 million in the North Carolina Office of Resiliency and Recovery (NCORR) to provide economic guidance and strategic training on preparing for natural disasters. The program led to the creation of the Resilient Communities Guidebook, a climate resilience resource for all areas across the state, which provides instructions for dealing with natural disasters along with best practices and success stories from across the state.
  • Becoming Climate-Ready in Illinois. In other communities, economic resilience means protecting regional assets and infrastructure from increased storms, droughts, high heat events, and longer wildfire seasons. In Savanna, Illinois, a $2 million EDA investment helped relocate a wastewater treatment plant that flooded frequently because it was built too close to the Mississippi River.
  • Investing in a Resilient Future. In April of this year, EDA released new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Content Guidelines that advances strategies to include resilience to climate change in economic development planning.  The CEDS Climate Resilience Content Guidelines assist regions in thinking about their vulnerabilities and prioritizing actions to help reduce risks to people and the workforce; infrastructure; industry and local businesses.

Tools and Resources 

EDA has compiled a wide range of economic recovery and resilience resources to assist communities in their recovery and long-term planning. This includes lessons learned from past disasters, case studies, and strategy reports.

To find the disaster recovery tools, data, reports and resources, please visit the Economic Recovery Resiliency Resources page on our website.