Examining the Social Efficiency of Post-Hurricane Recovery Grants in the Gulf Coast
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast region of the United States in September 2005. In their wake, the hurricanes revealed the Gulf Coast to be an especially fragile area, both environmentally and socioeconomically. Given FEMA's wholly inadequate emergency response to the hurricanes and its crucial role in the post-disaster recovery funding process, my research is driven by two crucial questions: Has FEMA allocated disaster recovery resources in a socially efficient manner following the devastating hurricanes of 2005? If not, what is the best way to ensure that socially efficient allocations occur in the future? Using FEMA Public Assistance grant data, US Census Bureau data and the Social Vulnerability Index, this study examines the post-hurricane recovery process and its implications for socially vulnerable areas like the Gulf Coast region of the United States. I hypothesize that, when controlling for damage, statistically significant relationships will exist between the 11 dimensions of social vulnerability (i.e. personal wealth, occupational status, race/ethnicity) and Public Assistance funding levels. These relationships will be in the directions predicted by previous research. Multivariate analysis using Ordinary Least Squares regression suggests that seven of the 11 dimensions of social vulnerability have statistically significant relationships with Public Assistance funding. However, after controlling for the impact of damage in the final regression, only two of these relationships remain statistically significant. My findings suggest that FEMA has largely failed to account for the varying levels of social vulnerability that exist in the Gulf Coast when making post-hurricane funding allocations in the region. These allocations have largely been influenced by damage estimates and indicate that the agency lacks a nuanced understanding of the special recovery challenges faced by areas with intense socioeconomic inequities. In order to ensure that more equitable funding allocations occur in the future, I recommend that FEMA implement a funding multiplier for socially vulnerable areas and institute a "Special Populations" criterion that explicitly accounts for the needs of the socially vulnerable throughout the grant eligibility and approval process.
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Harley, Tai (Georgetown University, 2018)This thesis paper explores new urban planning practices for resilient recovery of the United States Virgin Islands on the basis of lessons learned from the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. The findings of this research ...