How Business Can Help Catalyze the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts

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It was all very surprising. I had seen Sandy’s damage on television, I had heard the stories of those on the ground, and affected businesses had called our Help Desk, but still a part of me didn’t believe it. The media sometimes has a tendency to exaggerate, and I figured that they found the most damaged houses and kept showing them on TV. I figured that the media’s East Coast (especially NY) bias played a role as did the rarity of hurricanes in the Northeast. But I was wrong.

Last week, BCLC took a group of 20 companies to the Sandy affected areas to see the damage firsthand. We toured the area, visited with nonprofits and other community leaders, and saw first-hand how the status of the ongoing recovery. This is a service that we provide for our supporters. It is one thing to make decisions on how to support community recovery from your desk, it is another to see things for yourself. The latter makes for a much more informed decision. Our group went to five communities over three days: Monmouth County, NJ, Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. And there was extensive damage in every area we went. I know this was a big storm, but driving throughout New Jersey and New York really put into perspective the full extent and intensity of the damage. We saw many houses that were destroyed, and countless more that received so much damage that they needed to be gutted down to the frame.

It is clear that there is a long road ahead for the Sandy affected communities. Recovery is a long hard process. But, in spite of all the difficulties ahead, we did see signs of hope. In all of the communities that we visited, there was a group of committed individuals that are in it for the long haul.

It is clear that there is a long road ahead for the Sandy affected communities. Recovery is a long hard process. But, in spite of all the difficulties ahead, we did see signs of hope.

From local chambers, to local nonprofits and development organizations, to long term recovery groups in the VOAD structure, I believe the leadership is there to be successful. But there are some things we can do to help catalyze the recovery efforts.

  1. Many of the companies that came on the trip are interested in providing financial, in kind, and volunteering support to local communities. This is why they came on the trip in the first place. Recovery is a historically undercapitalized part of the disaster cycle (preparedness, response, and recovery), so continued company support will go a long way. Companies realize the value of giving to recovery as opposed to only relief. Stay tuned for stories of companies supporting recovery on this blog.

  2. It became apparent on the trip that information flow is lacking between local, recovery-oriented nonprofits and businesses looking to help. For in kind donations, companies can use the Aidmatrix network. But companies can also provide cash and skills-based support that has enormous value. BCLC is currently designing a system where nonprofits can post needs (cash and skills-bsaed volunteering) and companies can peruse the needs for relevant opportunities for them to support. We are doing this in conjunction with National VOAD. For more information, please email me.

  3. It is clear that small businesses are still disproportionally affected by disasters. There are a number of resources for them including our Help Desk, the Manhattan Chamber Fund, the Downtown Alliance Fund, Accion and other CDFIs, and of course the SBA. Despite all of this, we still hear in every disaster how much small businesses are hurting. Between a lack of resources and an inability to take on debt, it’s clear that recovery is a complicated problem with no easy solution. I don’t know what the future will hold on this issue, but BCLC will continue to meet with partners and research possible solutions.

All told, our delegation trip was extremely successful. I hope to have additional stories of recovery successes over the next few weeks. If you would like to get involved in the long-term Sandy recovery, please contact me.

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