Disasters in the form of weather patterns, earthquakes, and human-made catastrophes have become more frequent and severe in recent years. These events have a direct economic impact on communities. The losses incurred, in both the short and long term, can overwhelm a community long after the disaster subsides. For example, in 2017, the United States experienced several disasters that devastated communities, costing an estimated $306 billion in damages. To counter the economic effects disasters have on a community, improvements in economic recovery related to disasters must take place. Taking this action supports communities and the small businesses within them, which make up 99.8 percent of all businesses and employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce. These improvements also support the ideas laid out in Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness and nest with the capitalistic ideas that are foundational to the country. To do otherwise places the nation at economic risk, thereby jeopardizing its way of life.
This thesis examines the concept of economic recovery and seeks to understand how the United States can improve economic recovery to mitigate the impacts a disaster has on a community. This examination provides insight for policymakers and community leaders to bring about improvements. To facilitate this effort, individuals from local, state, and federal governments and the business community were approached to share their insight and perspectives and to determine recommendations for improvement. The research employed a two-round Delphi survey. The information obtained from the surveys was then analyzed using a net assessment. The net assessment process, traditionally used by the Department of Defense to assess the threat of an adversary, helped to create a shared understanding of U.S. capabilities and how they can counter or mitigate the overall impact of a nebulous and challenging problem. The assessment also provides decision-makers with insight, so they can develop long-term solutions. The net assessment examined the National Disaster Recovery Framework, the operational environment that supports economic recovery and governance. Instead of using traditional criteria like risk or threat, the assessment focused on flexibility, standardization, and unity of effort as evaluation criteria. The research identified three issues hindering existing capabilities: limited unity of effort, unrealistic objectives, and a lack of emphasis on economic recovery. When one accounts for the total number of local, state, federal, and tribal governments throughout the nation, these issues limit the nation’s ability to successfully support economic recovery. This thesis also concluded that the following recommendations would produce positive results.
• Adopt and publicize a universal definition of economic recovery
• Revise essential elements of economic recovery
• Implement Small Business Association loan programs
• Increase training opportunities for economic recovery
• Establish pre-disaster funding as a part of a mandated economic recovery plan
• Conduct additional research on economic recovery
Moreover, such steps would allow the nation to improve its preparedness capability and provide practitioners and stakeholders with the tools to support its citizens.