[Watch] A Community Approach to Disaster Recovery


Fed Communities Staff

Water floods neighborhood in the Midwest

Underserved communities face significant challenges in achieving a full and equitable recovery after natural disasters. One reason is that these neighborhoods often lack access to services offered through disaster funds and the necessary insurance to protect their households.  

On June 1, 2023, the Federal Reserve and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hosted a Connecting Communities webinar sharing how FEMA programs can help low- to moderate-income communities respond to these challenges. FEMA clarifies the role of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in recovery. Watch or listen on-demand to hear how collaboration among faith communities, nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and economic partners through long-term recovery groups (LTRGs) is critical for rebuilding stronger communities. Keep reading for a full transcript.

  • Nishesh Chalise, Manager, Institute for Economic Equity, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, facilitator
  • Mike Pickerel, Voluntary Agency Liaison and Mass Care Specialist, FEMA Region 7
  • Dan Shulman, Senior External Affairs Specialist, FEMA Region 5
  • James Sink, Regional Flood Insurance Liaison, FEMA Region 5
  • Whitney Felder, Marketing Communications Specialist, Fed Communities moderator
Connecting Communities A Community Approach to Disaster Recovery (video, 1:21:34).
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Whitney Felder

Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Whitney Felder. I’m the communications specialist for Fed Communities. Welcome to our June Connecting Communities webinar, A community Approach to Disaster Recovery. If you are a returning Connecting Communities participant, welcome back. If this is your first Connecting Communities webinar, you are in for a treat.

But before we get started, we would like to share a few housekeeping items. Today’s session is being recorded and will be available within two weeks.

Views expressed during this session are those of the speakers and are intended for informational purposes. They do not necessarily represent the views of Fed Communities or the Federal Reserve System.

Microphones have been muted. Please use the Q and A feature throughout the session to submit questions. We promise to get to as many of them as possible. And finally, feel free to keep the conversation going and engage with us on Twitter using the hashtag #connectingcommunities.

Now, I will turn it over to Nishesh Chalise, Manager of the Institute for Economic Equity at the St. Louis Fed. Thank you, Nishesh.

Nishesh Chalise

Thank you, Whitney, and thank you to the entire Fed Communities team and the Center for Learning and Innovation for getting this event together, we truly appreciate all the work you put into this event. And thank you to everyone who has joined here to discuss and learn about this very important topic. My name is Nishesh Chalise, and I’m manager of the Institute for Economic Equity at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. So, natural disasters, on the next slide, you can see that natural disasters have a tremendous impact.

Just for example, between the five-year period of 2018 and 2022, there have been 19 natural disasters that have cost a billion dollars or more and the total cost being more than $600 billion and have caused more than 1,700 deaths. And these are only the big, billion-dollar natural disasters, and we know there are many others that happen and have significant implications for the community we live in and work in. It truly affects all of us.

As a shared report in a recent report based on the survey of household decision-making in the next slide, we show that in 2022, 13% of adults in the US were affected by natural disasters. Many of you in the audience have perhaps been impacted or know someone who has been impacted. Two of the most common ways people are affected is by damage to their property, so think about how flooding or tornadoes, hurricanes can impact our homes, or by disrupting income. If you’re dealing with the damage, you don’t have a place to stay, it can be difficult to continue to go into your work or running your small business.

This report also finds that people with lower incomes were more likely to be affected by natural disasters. For example, 19% of adults with a family income below $25,000 reported any disaster-related hardship compared with only 9% of adults with a family income of $100,000 or more. There were similar differences by race and ethnicity as well, where Black or Hispanic adults were more likely to be affected compared to white or Asian adults.

In the other slide, we look at a different aspect of disasters, that is being displaced from your homes and the ability to return to your home. We also see some disparities by income here. This particular data, this particular graph, is based on the census Household Pulse Survey. You can see that lower-income families experience the highest rates of displacement from natural disasters. In the following slide, it shows that lower-income families are less likely to return to their homes.

So, whether you look at a speedy return to home, so less than a week, who is returning home, you see that lower-income households have a lesser likelihood, but when you go on the other side and look at never returned to home, lower-income households have higher representation on that side. Although natural disasters disrupt many lives, the impact and recovery from the impact can look different. So, on the next slide, we highlight this idea of unequal impact and unequal recovery from natural disasters.

There has been accumulating research that shows that whether it is financially constrained homeowners after Hurricane Harvey or loss of wealth among Black residents of impacted by disasters. More and more studies show that the impact is unequal, and the recovery is also unequal. One of the first steps in addressing these challenges is understanding how disaster assistance works and what role we all can play. Today I am grateful to my FEMA colleagues for joining us to talk about the various resources that are available and their work in disaster assistance.

The goal is to provide you with you, our audience members, who may directly or indirectly play a role in disaster assistance to the communities you serve, especially the low- and moderate-income communities. We’ll first begin with Dan Shulman, who is the senior external affairs specialist from FEMA Region 5. Dan will provide an overview of disasters and disaster assistance. We’ll then move to James Sink, who is the regional flood insurance liaison for FEMA Region 5, who will introduce flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

And finally, Mike Pickerel, who is the volunteer agency liaison for FEMA Region 7, and Mike will provide us with an overview of Community Organizations Active in Disasters or COADs. I’ll be passing the mic soon, but as you listen to these presentations, please be thinking about what role you or your organization can play or have been playing in your communities when it comes to disaster assistance. Once the presenters have finished their presentations, we will get to the Q&A part of the webinar, so please send in your questions either to a specific presenter or to the whole group, and we’ll keep this dialogue going. Without further delay, Dan, the floor is all yours.

Dan Shulman

Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. Thank you to the St. Louis Federal Reserve and the Federal Communities team for inviting FEMA to join you today to talk about a community approach to recovery. I’m going to begin our conversation by providing a brief overview of how FEMA gets involved in disasters and the basics of disaster assistance. My colleagues and I’ll talk today about the different pieces of that effort from disaster financial assistance, flood insurance, and the community partners who drive recovery. Given our limited time today, this is going to be just a snapshot of all that’s involved, so please feel free to visit our website via the links in today’s presentation for more details, but more importantly, after today’s session, we hope that you’ll find a way to get involved in your community to join us in this important work. If we can move on to our slides, please.

FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters in executing this mission we’re driven by our core values of compassion, integrity, fairness, and respect. Next slide, please. FEMA is just one part of a consolidated and coordinated effort to assist communities recovering from disasters. FEMA does not and cannot accomplish this work alone. We work as a part of a team. While we may get an outsized share of attention, emergency management and community recovery is most successful when it’s locally executed, state-managed, and federally supported.

When we respond to disasters, we’re working in places we’re familiar with and with state partners that we know, but it’s local community representatives who best understand the unique needs, opportunities, and risks that we’re working with. This knowledge must be leveraged to achieve success. Next slide, please. First, a quick reminder of how FEMA gets involved in disasters. As a reminder, only the governor of a state, chief executive of a federally recognized tribal nation, or territory such as Guam or Puerto Rico can request a federal disaster declaration under FEMA’s authorities.

Only incidents that exceed the capacity of a state or tribal nation’s ability to effectively respond and recover are eligible for federal assistance from FEMA. But it’s important to note that not every incident rises to this level and in fact, most do not. This slide shows you the typical progression of the process for a request from incident to damage assessment to request to analysis provided to the President who makes the final determination about what type of disaster assistance to make and what types of assistance will be available. Next slide, please.

Following the declaration of a disaster under the Stafford Act, FEMA’s implementing authorities, FEMA may be authorized to provide two principal programs, individual assistance, which is grants to individuals in households, or public assistance, which is grants to state, tribal and local governments, and eligible nonprofit organizations. This slide provides a brief overview of each of these programs. Once declared, FEMA works with our state, local and voluntary partners to promote the availability of disaster assistance in every way we can. From traditional and social media releases, email distribution of notices to partner organizations and town hall-style meetings like this one.

We also utilize Disaster Survivor Assistance teams or DSA who will go door-to-door canvassing in neighborhoods, especially in the first days of the declaration. This innovation allows FEMA to target the hardest hit areas, typically directed by local officials or geospatial information system data, GIS, to hand out disaster registration information, answer questions, and even conduct on-the-spot registration using mobile devices. Otherwise, disaster survivors can register by calling our toll-free number, visiting our website, downloading the FEMA app to their smart device, or once established, visiting a fixed location disaster recovery center, or if necessary, a mobile disaster recovery center, which we typically use in disasters impacting larger geographic areas or disasters affecting more rural areas.

It’s important to understand that FEMA was designed to provide emergency assistance to individuals. Our disaster assistance grants are not intended to replace insurance and are not intended to make people whole. While the maximum grant for this fiscal year is $41,000, the average grant for most people is far less than that. Nationally it averages between five and $7,000. In the recent disasters that impacted the St. Louis region, the average grant was at the lower end of that scale, just over $5,000 for the two disasters combined, FEMA disaster assistance is not a structured entitlement, rather it’s eligibility based.

Once a survivor registers, in many cases, FEMA will send an inspector to assess damages, and based on that inspection, a determination will be made about how much assistance a survivor may receive, this determination can be appealed. On the public assistance side, FEMA can reimburse for eligible work, debris removal, and a range of permanent repair work to public and nonprofit infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and utilities. We can also aid eligible houses of worship for disaster damages and the work they do during disasters. Finally, the President may also authorize the US Small Business Administration to offer low-interest disaster recovery loans to individuals, organizations, and businesses.

These loans which can supplement FEMA grants and pay for items not covered by FEMA are a critical piece of recovery for many individuals. A further piece of the recovery puzzle is insurance, both flood, which my colleague James is going to talk about, and homeowners, but we find that too many individuals are uninsured or underinsured. So, a quick plug, check with your agent about your risks and double check your coverage and make sure your loved ones do the same. For those with continued unmet needs after FEMA, SBA, and insurance, we’ll work with our partners at the federal, state, local, and voluntary agency levels to help fill the remaining gaps.

Next slide, please. I mentioned at the outset that FEMA doesn’t work alone. We’re part of a team in response and recovery. FEMA provides a range of disaster assistance. SBA helps fill gaps with their loans. Insurance goes on the next level to make people whole, but other partners are also active in many disasters providing assistance to communities and individuals with long-term recovery. Some quick examples, the housing and urban development provides community development block grants that can be used to help recovery and provide the cost share for FEMA programs, the Natural Resource Conservation Service pays for stream and river cleanup, not eligible for FEMA public assistance.

USDA insurance programs provide reimbursement for farm buildings and equipment for crops and livestock that aren’t eligible for FEMA. The private sector partners who quickly move in with temporary solutions to restore cellular service, reopen stores and restore commodity distribution, help support survivors and get local economies restarted. FEMA utilizes local hiring and contracting both to bolster our disaster workforce and redirect recovery dollars right back into the community where the assistance is needed most. And these are just a few examples of the key partnerships we rely on after disasters.

 So, who needs our help most and how can you help? The simple truth is that for most people, the people with networks and resources, a declared disaster will be challenging, frustrating, and heartbreaking, but they’ll be able to reach out to friends and relatives, use savings, take advantage of insurance, and figure out the myriad of programs and they’ll recover. But for those on the margins, those who were struggling before the event, the people who work two jobs or who were unbanked or underinsured or uninsured, people without legal status or with limited English proficiency or with a disability, a disruptive event can destroy a carefully crafted network of support.

Before, during, and after declared disasters the full weight of the federal government can be brought to bear to respond, and yet still there will be those for whom government programs will be insufficient. We rely on a network of voluntary partners to serve disaster survivors. Today we’re calling upon those of you that are not currently involved to get involved with those partners that we’ve talked about today or will talk about to help us going forward. I’m now going to turn it over to my friend James Sink, who’s going to talk about the role of the National Flood Insurance Program, and I’ll look forward to your questions at the end of the presentation.

Nishesh Chalise

Thank you, Dan. I always learn something new. I hope many of you have learned something new as well as Dan was calling out thinking about how we play a role. I just want to mention a response from the polls. Almost half of those who have joined are nonprofit organizations, so you are probably already either working or are poised very well to work with your communities. I do want to point out that there’s also representation from financial institutions and government, so I think this fits very well with forming partnerships to think about recovery for our communities. Okay, passing it on to James.

James Sink

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Nishesh and Dan. My name is James Sink. I’m the regional flood insurance liaison for FEMA Region 5. So, that means that I basically work with policyholders, local elected officials, nonprofits, pretty much anyone in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan on issues related to flood insurance. I have a colleague in Region 7, so that would be Missouri who’s responsible for states in the middle part of the country. Let’s go ahead and go to the next slide.

So, let’s go ahead and talk quickly about the difference between flood insurance and disaster assistance. Dan spoke to us about disaster assistance, and he said very importantly that disaster assistance is not a substitute for insurance. Disaster assistance through FEMA is not intended to return the home to its pre-disaster condition. Insurance and especially flood insurance, on the other hand, are designed to, in some cases, build back better, but hopefully at least return the home to its pre-disaster condition. Let’s go to the next slide.

Before we do that though, I think we need to understand where we’re at today. Flooding is the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster. Very few flood events actually receive a major disaster declaration under the Stafford Act, and therefore disaster assistance through FEMA is not available for the vast majority of flood events. And as you can see in the states of Region 5, flood insurance coverage is incredibly low, and the same is true for the states in Region 7 as well. In Illinois, we have about 33,000 flood insurance policies enforced across the entire state, and those policy counts are decreasing.

So, as time goes on, we know that flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster, but people are increasingly underinsured for floods. It’s already the number two event for which people are underinsured right behind earthquakes, and as time goes on, that coverage gap is getting worse. Let’s go ahead and go to the next slide, and we can actually skip this slide. Or actually no, let’s say here. So, we had mentioned that flood insurance is not a substitute for disaster assistance, and this is a good visualization of that. On the slide here, you’ll see federal disaster declarations across the six states in my region for which flooding was one of the reasons for that disaster declaration.

You’ll see that tall blue bar, that’s the average flood insurance claim for that event, and you can compare that to the green bar, the small, short bar, which is the average disaster assistance payment. Again, disaster assistance is not intended to return the home to its pre-disaster condition. It is only intended to make the home safe, sanitary, and functional. Insurance, and particularly flood insurance, on the other hand, are designed to restore the home and like I said, in some cases, build back better. And you’ll see there’s even one event where there was no disaster assistance available. That disaster declaration was only for public assistance. There was no help available through FEMA to individual homeowners and renters for that, it’s the third one in Wisconsin. There was no disaster assistance available for that flood event. Next slide.

So, I think that you’re going to catch a theme here. Disaster assistance is not a substitute for insurance. Again, disaster assistance requires that a major disaster declaration under the Stafford Act, approved by the President. Most flood events do not receive that disaster declaration. Importantly, most disaster assistance is in the form of a loan through the Small Business Administration, which has to be paid back with interest. Dan gave us the most recent numbers for individual assistance. So, this year the maximum amount of individual assistance is about $41,000 for home repair and home replacement and about $41,000 for other needs assistance.

And like I mentioned earlier, the most important thing to remember is that disaster assistance is only intended to make the home safe, sanitary, and functional. Vacation homes, investment properties, secondary homes, most commercial businesses, most commercial structures are also not eligible for disaster assistance through FEMA. There may be exceptions to that, but as a general rule, they’re not going to be eligible through FEMA. They would be looking at the Small Business Administration. So, for those types of structures, people are going to want to have flood insurance or another insurance product that covers flooding in order to make sure that they’re able to recover post-event. Next slide.

And this one here reiterates the importance of flood insurance. Remember that flood insurance does not depend on a major disaster declaration. If there is a flood and someone has a flood insurance policy, we are going to pay that claim, assuming that they have a valid loss. There is no payback requirement for verified losses, we do not cancel policies based off of loss history. Although loss history is something we consider when it comes to the premium, the best indicator of a future flood loss is a past flood loss. Policy limits are significantly higher for flood insurance when compared to disaster assistance.

And like I mentioned earlier, flood insurance is intended to return the structure to the pre-disaster condition and in some cases build back better. And importantly, any homeowner, business owner, or renter in an NFIP-participating community can purchase flood insurance. There is not and has never been a requirement for a structure to be in a flood plain or a special flood hazard area or a flood zone to get flood insurance. They simply need to be located in a participating community. Next slide. And we can go ahead and go to the next one. So, we’re going to talk now about how people buy flood insurance and exactly what is covered.

So, like I had mentioned in the previous slide, there is not and has never been a requirement to be in the flood plain or a special flood hazard area in order to buy flood insurance. However, there are some cases when flood insurance is mandatory under the law. And so, an example of that would be if you have a mortgage in a special flood hazard area, again, any zone starting with A as in alpha or B as in Victor, then flood insurance is required for any other flood zone, flood insurance is optional. Flood insurance is also required if you live in a flood zone that starts with A as an alpha or V and Victor if you have received certain forms of federal disaster assistance, which we’ll be talking about on the next couple of slides here. Next slide.

And again, importantly, this is one of the most common things that I hear, the most common misperceptions out there. Anyone in an NFIP-participating community can purchase flood insurance. It does not matter which flood zone you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the high-risk zones on the left, the low-risk zones that are those unshaded islands throughout the community here. It doesn’t matter what zone you’re in, you can have flood insurance as long as your community participates. Next slide.

The flood insurance covers four things. It covers the building. It covers personal property. It covers things like debris removal, sandbagging, pumps, that kind of stuff, and it covers increased cost of compliance, that’s building back better. If you’re building a substantially damaged by flooding in the flood plain and you are damaged to 50% of the market value of your structure, there is up to an additional $30,000 available through your flood insurance policy to help you rebuild better and mitigate future flood losses.

Remember that building coverage and personal property coverage are always purchased separately. They’re two separate premiums. They would be two separate items on the declaration page, so people need to make sure that they have both building coverage and personal property coverage, if they’re a homeowner. If they’re a renter, clearly, they would only have personal property coverage. They don’t have an insured interest in that building. Next slide, please.

I do think that it’s important to talk briefly about group flood insurance policies, particularly given the flood event in July last year in Missouri and parts of Illinois. There are nearly a thousand people on both the Missouri and the Illinois side of the border who received something called the group flood insurance policy. When I mentioned earlier that there are some circumstances where FEMA disaster assistance, people would have to obtain and maintain flood insurance, this is an example of that.

So, there are some people who were damaged by flooding in July of last year who received disaster assistance from FEMA who were issued a group flood insurance policy. That group flood insurance policy offers very limited flood insurance coverage for up to three years following the disaster declaration. When that group flood insurance policy expires, the people who received that GFIP do have to go out and purchase their own flood insurance policy, and that requirement applies to the address in perpetuity. So, if someone sells their home and they have a GFIP, they need to disclose the obtain and maintain requirement to the new owner. And like I mentioned, this obtain and maintain requirement exists in perpetuity for as long as the address exists.

Okay, next slide. And we can also skip this slide. Go ahead and go on. Okay. In general, there’s a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance policies to come into effect, so make sure that you buy your flood insurance policy early and renew it every year so that you don’t get stuck with that 30-day waiting period. There are three exceptions. The one is if you are making, renewing, increasing, or extending a loan in the special flood hazard area that’s secured by real property. If that’s the case, then we would have to go or, yeah, secured by property in the special flood hazard area, then there’s a no waiting period for that flood insurance policy.

It becomes effective immediately when that loan instrument closes. There’s a one-day waiting period if you are newly mapped into the special flood hazard area as the result of a map change and there’s a one-day waiting period for certain post-wildfire conditions, which I will tell you about if it’s an issue, but that is more of an issue out west that it’s not so much an issue in this part of the country. Okay, go ahead and go to the next slide.

On this slide is a technical definition of flood, but I think what’s important is that if someone has flood insurance and they’re damaged by something that looks like a flood, they should just file their claim and let their insurance carrier make a decision as to whether or not it’s eligible. You are not an insurance adjuster, I’m not an insurance adjuster. If people have flood insurance and they have flood damage, have them file the claim and work with their carrier. Filing a claim with the National Flood Insurance Program works exactly the same as it does with any other insurance product.

You have to notify your carrier, work with your adjuster, document your loss. If there is a major disaster declaration under the Stafford Act people should also register for disaster assistance. There are some things disaster assistance can cover that flood insurance does not. Next slide, please. And we can go ahead and go to the next slide. The last thing that I’d like to talk about is the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate. If someone has a problem with their flood insurance of any kind, and they cannot resolve it by working with the state NFIP coordinator by working with me in the regional office or Chris, if you’re in Region 7 or by working with their carrier, then they can go to the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a policyholder advocate.

If someone has an issue that we can’t resolve any other way, that is the place we would send them. But I think that does conclude the insurance section. There will be some resource slides following this that I’ll hand it back to Nishesh for our next speaker. Thank you.

Nishesh Chalise

Thank you, James. Many of our audience members said that they themselves or their families have been impacted by a natural disaster and that the communities they serve have also been impacted by a natural disaster in the past 12 months. So, definitely very relevant information. I didn’t know that anybody could buy from the NFIP. So, thank you so much. Okay, Mike, hope you are ready. The floor is all yours.

Mike Pickerel

Okay, thank you. My name is, as you can see on the screen there, Mike Pickerel. I’m a voluntary agency liaison slash Mass Care specialist with Region 7. Region 7 takes in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and I am here today to speak on COADs. Next slide, please.

Community Organizations Active in Disasters or COADs, this is where you get your hands dirty. They are made up of NGOs, keep going, service organizations, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and concerned citizens. COAD are under, well, they’re not really under, they are a local organization, and they are under the umbrella of VOADs, which is Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. It’s a state organization and also a national organization. The VOAD stands for Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.

There used to be organizations locally that used that term. However, businesses and other for-profit organizations didn’t like the volunteer, they wanted something else, so they came up with community. Community Organizations Active in Disaster are local organizations, and they are governed locally. All disasters begin and end locally. I say that because the, excuse me, the disaster first responders are local. If their resources are overwhelmed, they contact the state and if the state resources are overwhelmed, then they go ahead and contact us, FEMA, which is a Federal Emergency Management Agency, or as we like to call sometimes find every meeting available.

So, I wanted to tell one more thing as far as why these organizations join, probably civic pride, it has something to do with it. Government agencies because it’s their responsibility, faith-based organizations because they feel a calling to their community, to their fellow man to respond in disaster and service organizations and NGOs because that’s what they do. The COADs are based on the four Cs, that’s cooperation, communication, coordination, and collaboration. I think that’s four. Is that correct? I always leave one out, and the funny thing about that is I leave a different one out every time I talk about it.

But anyway, let’s talk about some potential members for the COADs. Next slide, please. You see there the local Red Cross, Local Salvation Army. If there’s a ministerial alliance or local representatives from churches, the volunteers usually come from the churches if there’s a response, I mean, if there is a disaster in your community, the churches respond. They may not know what they’re supposed to do, but they are out there, and they respond. So, why not get them trained ahead of time? And this is what a COAD can do.

So, you can have a group of volunteers ready to act right after a disaster. And also, throughout the response and recovery process, I have local officials on there and I’m torn about including local officials, elected officials in your COAD, because sometimes the local elected officials and the COAD agendas or goals don’t meet, so… Local banks, that is key because they can help the COAD with cash donations. They can help by setting up checking accounts and helping the COAD manage their money. Local merchants, lumber yards, home supply, restaurants, et cetera. This is something that’s key with cash donations that you receive.

That money can be spent in the local area and that can ease the impact of the hit that the disaster had on the local economy. So, those are people that you probably want to get in your COAD, and you can tap them for information and maybe donations later down the road. I have local service clubs that I like to call the critter clubs, the Lions, the Eagles, the Elks, the Moose, whomever, also Kiwanis, Jaycees, all those people. They have the leaning toward getting involved in their community, and this is another way they can get involved. The local or the County Division of Family Services staff is important. Community Action Agencies area aging, I do that every time. Area Agency on Aging.

They can help you when you are trying to assist seniors in the area, Centers for independent living, or whatever they may be called in your state. Another key component, because your shelters need to be accessible for those individuals with access and functional needs. Centers for independent living can help you find a shelter that is like that or find a building that you can use for a shelter that is accessible and also, they can come up with small, helpful hints that are inexpensive to help you make the building more accessible for those individuals. Next slide, please.

I want to say that list is not limited to just those groups or individuals, but you can go outside of that. Again, Community Organizations Active in Disaster, they are active in all four phases of emergency management, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Mitigation would be something like if you are a hospital, you need a generator in case there’s power outages. Also, you may have seen propane tanks, what they call propane tank farms with all kinds of propane tanks. You want to make sure those are tied down because you don’t want them floating off in a flood and colliding and things like that.

Preparedness, build a kit, make a plan, stay informed. That’s just the basic individual preparedness, and that would be something like that. A response, in Missouri, the State Emergency Management Agency, along with the state VOAD, they are big proponents of MARCs, M-A-R-C. That’s Multi-Agency Resource Center. It’s a first stop for survivors from disasters. There are all kinds of people there. Red Cross would be there possibly handing out cleanup kits. Salvation Army could be there with hygiene kits. The Department of Insurance could be there to help you get through your homeowners’ or renter’s insurance if you have any questions on that. The licensing bureau can be there if you’ve lost your license during the disaster.

So, the MARC is very important, and it is not an end all be all, but that is generally the first step that SEMA and the state or local COAD will take in response to a disaster. Recovery could be something like repairing a torn roof or if there’s a ramp to your home that has been damaged, that would be something that could be repaired, that would be under recovery. Next slide, please. What’s the function of a COAD? It ensures that a community’s prepared for all hazards, tornadoes, flooding, anything that is like that. And as far as preparedness goes, you want to work with the local emergency manager. I’ve always said that a COAD is an emergency manager’s best friend.

Generally, you’ll see emergency management departments as a department of one or maybe two if they’re lucky. Sometimes it’s a half-time or a volunteer. So, a COAD can really help out and be a force multiplier for the emergency manager in that community. It ensures that the public and private agencies, they can also assist in responding to the disaster and helping the community recover. And this sentence I stole out of, I don’t even know who to give credit to, but anyway, the function of a COAD is to successfully meet the difficult and challenging job of addressing the emergency needs of people affected by disasters. And that is truly a difficult and challenging job no matter what the disaster, tornado or flood, fire, whatever it is, it is definitely a challenge. Next slide, please.

Just like American Express, I’m going to tell you the benefits of membership at a COAD. As these pop up here, I need to put that one and two flip-flop. Various players know one another before meeting in a disaster area, when you’re sitting around the table at the COAD meeting, you get to know all the other agencies and organizations that are there, and you get to know what they do. It is never a good thing to exchange business cards at a disaster site. If you’re doing that, then you’re definitely in trouble. A friend of mine who’s an emergency manager in Mississippi used to say, “Prom night ain’t the night to learn how to dance.” And that is so true. So, make sure that you meet the people beforehand.

Also, member agencies know the partner’s strengths and how quickly those strengths can come to bear during a disaster. There’s a reduction of duplication in services. I will talk about this more in other slides as well, but if a COAD will work with donated resources, and there’s a finite amount of those donated resources, so you want to make sure that you’re not duplicating services, you’re not duplicating time, sending two different crews out to a house to repair or to remove debris, whatever, because that costs, you want to stretch your resource as far as possible, and you don’t want to waste time. You don’t want to waste money, you don’t want to waste volunteers.

Also, COADs, the benefit of membership in a COAD is a reduction of gaps in services. You don’t want people slipping through the cracks. This way, if they register at the MARC, you know who they are, and you can address their needs throughout the process. And also, the services are timely. They get there and hopefully, they will not, you’re not a year out from the disaster still trying to figure out what houses you’re going to and who you’re going to help. Next slide, please.

This is an important slide because it talks again about the efficiency of the COAD, communities with COADs have a more efficient response. They get into the recovery phase much earlier and have a more complete recovery with COADs involved.

Their efficiency in use of resources here, again, talking about the efficiency and not duplicating the services that the COAD provides. They build collaboration between agencies, volunteers, local emergency management. You can also refer to that as they build community because that’s what you’re doing. And the survivors receive aid from a wide variety of agencies that come in. For instance, the faith communities, they all have a national niche or niche, however you want to pronounce that. They perform, the Baptists have chainsaw crews, they provide meals. They also do small repairs. The Mennonite Disaster Service does the same thing. They do repairs to homes. The Catholic Charities, they help with long-term recovery.

Adventist community services are known for warehousing, if you can find a warehouse that the Adventist community will come in and provide leadership and management for that warehouse. So, there’s a wide variety of agencies that will come to your community to help. Now, one thing I will say is, and this is key for all disaster recovery and response, they will not self-deploy. They may call and ask if you need their assistance, but you are not going to wake up one morning and see a big trailer out there with them. They’re going to contact you first and ask if you need assistance. Next slide, please.

Agencies that participate experience less disruption to their operation. Again, more efficient use of resources, less waste, and duplication. They have, this is key here. They have a voice in operation. They’re sitting at the table, and they can give their input into how the COAD is responding to the disaster. And also, you’re able to manage expectations and greater access to information, which is key as well. You want to know what’s going on. You want to know that what you’re doing is useful to the overall operation. And next slide, please.

Again, this is what I call, we’re stronger together than we are alone. You’re part of a network of agencies.

I mentioned some of the faith groups that have a national or a niche in disaster response and recovery. You’re going to get all kinds of people coming in to help. And it really is heartwarming to see these people show up and they’re strangers to you, but they’re there to help. And the COADs will help guide those folks and show them where and how they can help. Next slide, please.

Now, you’re going to think I am repeating, which I am, but I just wanted you to remember that communities that have COADs have a more efficient response, et cetera, et cetera. You can look through that and hopefully, it’ll jog your memory of two slides ago.

Anyway, I want you also to remember that if you’re sitting out there and you’re a concerned citizen or you’re a member of a group or a faith community that would like to get involved, please consider joining a COAD or forming a COAD. If there’s not a COAD in your community, contact your emergency manager and tell them that you would like to start a COAD if there’s not one in your community, this is where you get your hands dirty. This is where you can see that you make a difference. And I think that if you do this, one of the benefits to you is that you’ll feel better about yourself that you’re giving back to your community. With that, I’ll turn it back over to Nishesh.

Nishesh Chalise

Thank you, Mike, James, Dan, I would love for you to come on camera, and we continue this with some questions. I have a few questions of my own. I see some questions popping up on the chat. I guess what I’ll start with is I started my presentation with showing how lower-income families, individuals are impacted more, and also from the recovery side seems like a slower recovery, more challenge, difficult recovery. So, I guess the question is, knowing the impact on socially vulnerable households and communities from disasters, how does FEMA use an equity approach to disaster recovery? And Dan, maybe if I can start with you and James, Mike, jump in if you want to with your own points.

Dan Shulman

Sure. Thanks. And I appreciate the question. I think that it is certainly something that this administration has really been honing in on and looking for more ways to find a solution there. I think you’re asking the right question, and it’s something that we’ve been asking ourselves and finding new and different and better ways to deliver the assistance that is needed to the people that need it most. And I touched about it a little bit in how we’re engaging with survivors. So, number one is finding the people that need assistance the most. So, there’s a number of different ways that we’re doing this. One is asking the people that know best.

So, letting locals drive the response and recovery. We talked about that disasters begin and end locally.

So, leaning on our local partners to tell us where is the most damage, that starts in the damage assessment. Damage assessment is being driven by local officials. When the disaster is declared working with our local emergency management partners to tell us where are the heavily damaged areas. Where are the communities that need extra assistance? I talked about disaster recovery centers, citing those disaster recovery centers in the areas where people are, or individuals with transportation challenges using technology, geospatial information system, using flooding overlays, where are the most heavily damaged areas, and sending our Disaster Survivor Assistance teams first into those areas to make sure that we’re getting those people registered as quickly as we can.

There’s some things that we can do on the programmatic side, lessons that we’re learning from older disasters. In Puerto Rico, we saw that our programs were, we weren’t recognizing non-traditional ways that homes were transferred within families. So, under this administration, we’ve expanded the documentation that we can use to acknowledge homeownership and home responsibility. So, I mean, there are a lot of different ways, and if we had all day, I could talk to you for hours about the different ways that we are expanding our approach. But that’s just a few examples. And then the last piece, I want to say something, two quick examples that we used significantly in our two disasters in Missouri and St. Louis, which are proactive outreach to individuals who received a negative determination in their individual assistance claims.

So, reaching back out to not waiting for them to call us and appeal, but calling them and saying, “Hey, we see that you received a negative determination. What’s going on? Is there something that we can do more?” And through that effort in Missouri and in Illinois, we were able to deliver millions of dollars in additional assistance because it was simple things like finding out that people said, “Oh, I didn’t know that there was an additional document that I needed to submit. Oh, I didn’t realize that you were missing a signature on a piece of paper, or there was something else that I needed to do.” And so, we were able to push additional assistance out to people just by us following up and answering some simple questions or helping them understand there was additional assistance available.

So, there are little things that we’re trying to do, lessons from other disasters that we’re implementing, ways that we’re changing our program to expand the way that we are trying to reach survivors where they are.

Nishesh Chalise         

Thank you, Dan.

James Sink

Yeah, so sure, thanks. In terms of the National Flood Insurance Program, there’s two answers to that. The first one is what I am able to do in my role as the regional flood insurance liaison, and that means that I’m doing more education outreach and training in communities that may have been historically underserved by the National Flood Insurance Program. So, there’s that, and then there’s also what the National Flood Insurance Program itself is able to do. It’s important to remember that the National Flood Insurance Program is authorized by statute. So, we have to do what the law says we can do.

And in 2012, Congress passed a law that said, “FEMA and National Flood Insurance Program, you must charge people a flood insurance premium based off of their risk, and you must eliminate subsidies that are built into the program.” So, that does mean that individual property owners are bearing more and more of the cost of flood insurance as we eliminate the subsidies per Congress’s direction. That said, we did transition to a new pricing methodology about a year and a half, two years ago, which does provide meaningful benefits to people who have historically been underserved. One of the important things that we’ve done is we are now using replacement cost value in setting as a factor in setting flood insurance premiums.

What that does is it does reduce the flood insurance premium for lower value structures, and it does increase the premium for higher value structures. The reason for this is long and detailed and very in the weeds with the underwriting. If you want to talk more about it, I’d be happy to answer questions, but at a high level, that’s what we’re able to do. The last thing I would mention is, like I said, we are limited by statute and by Congress’s instruction. FEMA did propose to Congress in May 2022, and again in May of 2023, we did propose some legislative reforms to Congress that would allow us to look at things like income or other factors of vulnerability when it comes to setting individual flood insurance premiums.

If you all think that that’s a good idea, you can go ahead and go to your favorite search engine, look for NFIP legislative proposals, and if you would like them, we’d welcome your support, but I can’t give you any more specific call to action than that, so…

Nishesh Chalise

Thank you, James. There’s a specific question from one of our audience members that maybe you would be best to answer. “What happens with rental property if renters are displaced because of flood damage to their rented unit is there any insurance to assist them in finding a new place to live? Are landlords eligible for flood insurance?”

James Sink

That is a really good question, and it is complicated. It’s going to vary from landlord to landlord and from state to state. And the reason I say that is this, individual renters can get flood insurance for their personal property within their unit, but again, by law, we cannot offer money to pay for them to live somewhere else while they have a flood-damaged property, right? That’s when you would register for disaster assistance. That’s one of those things that disaster assistance can cover that flood insurance can’t. That said, this is something that’s in that legislative proposal we asked Congress to do.

Landlords can definitely have flood insurance for the structure. And why I said it’s complicated and it might vary, is there may be a requirement under state law for the landlord to pay for lodging for people who are displaced from their rental properties, but that’s going to vary from state to state. It might also be in the lease. So, make sure you’re checking out both of those things, contacting your state regulator, whoever that might be in the state with issues about landlords and renters.

I know this is something that comes up a lot in Michigan, and there’s been some legislative change in Michigan because of issues with landlords and flooding. But finally, the last thing I’d like to point out, just because it’s nuanced, is contract for deed. If someone has contract for deed, they can also have flood insurance, but the person who owns the building and the person who is renting to own, both need to be on the flood insurance policy. So, that’s a nuance of contract for deed.

Dan Shulman            

And I just want to piggyback on what James said because he did mention it. If there is a declared disaster, renters are eligible for disaster assistance from FEMA. So, we would encourage that renter if they didn’t have flood insurance, or even if they did have flood insurance for their personal property to go ahead and register with FEMA, we’ll ask them about their flood insurance or whatever other insurance they have. But renters are eligible for disaster assistance from FEMA, and this is an area where disaster assistance and insurance and SBA loans work together to fill the gaps that we have in each other’s programs. So, FEMA, disaster assistance can provide temporary housing, or for a renter that has to move out from a flood-damaged rental unit, we can help them find a new place to live and money for a period of time while they transition into that new place to live.

So, we won’t provide, and again, we can provide disaster assistance for personal property not covered by insurance. That renter, we won’t provide disaster assistance to repair the flood-damaged rental unit because they didn’t own it. But again, transportation, personal property, temporary lodging, like a hotel that they may be eligible for, and a number of other things under our disaster assistance programs, renters are absolutely potentially eligible for.

Nishesh Chalise        

Thank you. Thank you both. Mike, talking a little bit about COAD, I think you alluded a few things that local community organizations can do to help with in all four phases. Could you say a little bit about, from your perspective, how can COADs play a role in equitable recovery or just taking that equity approach to disaster recovery? What are some of the best roles that COADs can play?

Mike Pickerel               

Well, Dan mentioned this earlier as far as getting local input on where the damage is and what type of community it is. When FEMA goes to do the damage assessments before the declaration is declared, we generally go with someone from the state and someone from the local community to go out and view the damaged properties and see what’s going on with them, where the damage is, what type of structures they are, and also a little bit about the people that live there. Are they low- to moderate-income folks or is it maybe a higher value? And generally, folks that have a more expensive home are more likely to have insurance to where FEMA really doesn’t worry about them as much as those people that low to moderate income folks without insurance to their structures.

Nishesh Chalise          

Got it. Thank you, Mike. I see a few very basic questions about COADs. “How do you know if your community has a COAD, who starts a COAD for a community, or is there a process for obtaining COAD status? Are there funds for funding COADs?” So, maybe you could respond to some of those basic questions.

Mike Pickerel               


Nishesh Chalise        

Thank you.

Mike Pickerel             

What I would do is I would start with contacting my local emergency manager to ask if there is a COAD. And if there’s not, ask them if they would assist you in putting one together. Also, I would contact the state. There is usually a state VOAD in every state. I would contact them because working in state emergency management, one of the things that I had to do was go out and try to start up COADs in counties and communities across the state. And if someone would call me and say, “We want to start a COAD,” your day was made right there. So, you can help them, show them what a COAD is all about, how it can be formed. And if one is already there, contact those folks. See when they meet, show up at the meeting, introduce yourself, and say, “You know what?” If there’s something that you can bring to the table, if you’re a faith-based organization that you want to get involved with COAD because you want to help during a disaster, that would be the ideal thing to do.

As far as funding there’s no funding for COADs. It’s all volunteer, and it would be funds that you would raise to use during a disaster. So, there’s really no funds to start a COAD. It’s all volunteer, and it is something done out of community pride and to get involved to help your fellow community members.

Nishesh Chalise          

Thank you. Thank you for clarifying that, especially that funding question. There’s a question about resiliency hubs, and I don’t know if these are similar to COAD or something completely different. I’ll just read the question. “Would it make sense to create resiliency hubs in communities that are most likely to be adversely impacted by disasters? These hubs could conduct outreach efforts to communities that may not otherwise be well familiar with FEMA offerings.” Anybody have any thoughts on that, responses?

Dan Shulman            

Yeah. So, I’m going to jump in here, one, I’m going to backtrack a little bit to what Mike was saying, and I’m going to transition into answering that question. So, on the subject of COADs, I’m going to start by saying everyone should have a COAD because we talk about, we’re here from FEMA and we’re talking about, and people have in their head these really big disasters that happen, but disasters happen in communities every day. And these disasters are the kinds of things where FEMA is not going to get involved. Individual house fires or apartment building fires that need community support, that need organizations to show up with blankets and a hot meal, and a gift card to a box store to replace personal items.

These are things where COADs can be helpful, where COADs, which fundamentally are organizations getting together and talk about, “When these things happen, how are we going to not duplicate our activities with each other?” And not to step on Mike’s toes. So, even if it’s just getting together and say, “What do you do? Oh, okay, I do the same thing. So, let’s talk to each other so we’re not duplicating efforts here.” Which is a big thing in disasters where you can have a lot of times have organizations and government agencies coming in and trying to do the same thing. And this is something that we’re working with our federal partners on.

To the question about resiliency hubs and legislation was passed at the end of last year creating community disaster resiliency zones. And this is an effort to target FEMA’s energies on the highest SVI areas across the country. So, coming back to your first question about an equity approach to recovery, this pushes us, excuse me, in that direction. So, without knowing exactly what the author of the question had in mind, there’s a few things where you could take that question and take that initiative. So, I would always say if there is a desire to do more, to educate more, to get people more prepared, 100% yes.

I would just say if you’re going to do that, talk to the other people that are already doing that. Mike mentioned that it’s your local emergency manager. So, educating people about what’s going on in the community about how to get involved is always a good thing. And I will always say that’s something that people can do more of. One thing I want to remind people is that FEMA is not at the other end of 911. And so, we are not going to be involved in most things that happen in your community. It’s going to be those local first responders that are going to show up.

And so, talk to your local emergency manager, talk to your local fire, police, and emergency services about what they’re going to be doing and how you can support their efforts. We have Community Emergency Response Teams, CERT teams that it’s training that FEMA can help facilitate so that you as individuals and organizations can support those local organizations. But when there is a big disaster, you can be involved and support that larger response and recovery effort. So, 100%, yes, get in touch with us after today’s presentation. Would love to talk to you more about things that we’re already doing, but it sounds like something we’re already doing, but we’re always happy to take new ideas and figure out how we can incorporate those new ideas to improve on what we’re doing, and it may not be happening in your community and you can lead the way.

Nishesh Chalise          

Thank you. Thank you, Dan. I’m going to go back to flood insurance premiums. I think there was a question, and it relates to that equity perspective and serving the most vulnerable. “What is the range of flood insurance premiums? I’m trying to understand how doable that is for different income groups.” So, I think what the audience member is trying to ask is just the cost of flood insurance premiums and whether it is affordable or not.

James Sink                      

Sure. So, affordability is obviously very subjective, right? So, what one person thinks is affordable might not be affordable for someone else. I can tell you that the minimum premium for flood insurance is about $300, and this is for a single-family home. Other types of buildings are going to be different, but for a single-family home, the minimum premium is $300 a year, more or less, and the maximum premium is around $12,000 a year. In this part of the world, Missouri, Illinois, basically everything in this part of the world, the average premium is going to run anywhere between 700 and $1,200 a year.

I know that that is a significant financial burden, particularly for a lot of the families that were impacted by last year’s flooding. I indicated that our options at the federal level are limited by statute. So, while we wait for statute to play out and we’re doing the things we can under our own authority with things like replacement cost value, there are definitely things that can be done at the state and local levels. Wisconsin, for example, has introduced an income tax credit for flood insurance premiums, so maybe that’s something that other states could also consider doing. We also have other examples, mainly in the hurricane states where nonprofit organizations through their community or their COADs that Mike was talking about did help reimburse people for their flood insurance premiums if they met whatever the threshold was for that COAD project.

So, those are things that can be done at the state and local level. We can also make sure that we’re participating in our local hazard mitigation plans. The whole community process of emergency management is incredibly important, and oftentimes people who are most vulnerable to flooding are not involved in local hazard mitigation planning efforts. It would be really great if they could contact their local emergency manager, be involved with that, let them know what the issues are in their neighborhood so that the local community can pre-identify mitigation projects.

And there are ways through flood insurance that those mitigation projects would reduce your premium, whether it be a levee being built. It could be something like installing proper flood openings. It could be perhaps elevating your home. It could be perhaps elevating machinery and equipment. Those would all reduce your flood insurance premium, but those require solutions at the state and local levels, not necessarily at the federal level.

Nishesh Chalise           

Thank you. I think what I’m hearing, a theme over and over is that there is a role to be played for local community organizations and many other organizations at a more local level. I guess one of the questions from the audience members is, “Are there any best practices or case studies written about real-life COADs, member roles, challenges, and successes so that folks can replicate and learn from what other people have done?”

Mike Pickerel           

Yeah, there is actually. The state of Missouri has a COAD manual that they put together. It was one of the first in the country, a few years back, and I believe it’s been updated since then, but it goes step by step in how to form a COAD, what a COAD can accomplish, things like that. I think it’s online, and it may be on the Missouri State Emergency Management website. You can find it there, and several other states have used it as a template, and so that is one resource you can have.

There’s other resources online about COADs. Also, I want to mention, there are resources that FEMA has as far as classes. There’s individual study classes that you can get on and learn all kinds of things regarding emergency management and how to respond to disasters. One important thing I would suggest is to start off with the 100 class where you learn the language of emergency management. FEMA is chock-full of acronyms, and in fact, they have a book of acronyms that has an acronym for it. It’s called the FAAT Book, the FEMA Acronyms, and Terms and Technology or something. I don’t know.

Anyway, it lists everything in there, every acronym that they have to date. I’m sure this afternoon they’ve come up with others, but anyway, what is key is to learn the language of emergency management and that will really help you as you go forward.

Nishesh Chalise            

Thank you. Thank you. Well, we are at time. Thank you so much, James, Dan, Mike, this was a wonderful conversation. I hope we can continue the conversation. We should continue the conversation, and now I’m going to pass it on to Whitney.

Whitney Felder      

Thank you again, to our speakers for providing insightful information and engaging our audience and attendees, thank you for spending your valuable time with us this afternoon. Before we close out this session, we do have just a few small requests. Please complete the survey that will be sent to you immediately after the event so we can improve and continue to bring you timely and relevant topics.

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