Rapid Response - Solutions for Economic Transition
Apr 28

Are You Ready?

By Rob Gamble and David Prickett

“Don't go to the fishpond without a net.”
Japanese Proverb

*This blog is being reposted in response to the ongoing violent storms across the United States.  The value of disaster prep and the role of Rapid Response remain of a highest priority.

As a concept, we all understand the value of being prepared. The recent earthquake in Japan and the subsequent and shocking impact of the tsunami that followed is just another reminder to all of us that preparedness is much more than a concept to admire. It is an absolute necessity in being able to provide an effective, efficient and comprehensive response to natural disasters.

Figuratively and quite literally, the affects of a disaster can be far reaching.  Beyond the devastating damage and loss of life that wrenches our collective hearts, businesses and jobs have quite literally been swept away, creating enormous economic challenges to come– in Japan and beyond. Even the United States did not escape unscathed. Nearly half a world away, the tsunami shot across the Pacific and pounded the shores of Northern California and wrecked havoc on the already struggling fishing industry in Crescent City. We can add this to the list of other recent challenges that test our preparedness, including the on-going massive flooding in many northeast and midwest communities.

References to Crescent City, CA:

  • Article: Tsunami surge deals blow to struggling Calif. Town
  • News Video: The Crescent City harbor is expected to be unusable for the foreseeable future, impacting jobs and business.

Without the foresight to prepare, we’d be lost. But we’re not lost; fortunately there are many tools and programs available to address natural disasters and their often harsh affects. Chief among them – at least from the perspective of the workforce system – are Rapid Response and Unemployment Insurance (UI). But having the tools and programs available is not enough, the practitioners of Rapid Response and UI, as well as their many partners and stakeholders must work together in an ongoing basis to develop plans and ensure an up-to-date state of preparedness. It is critical to dedicate staff time and resources in developing a disaster response plan. The time spent planning will pay enormous dividends should a disaster occur. This includes building a broad network of partnerships (see link to sample resource guide below) and gaining a sound understanding of how to coordinate your efforts when needed.

Sample Local Resource Guide- Manchester, NH: Click Here

Whether it’s an earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, fire or flood, our communities will no doubt be faced with a natural or man-made disaster and we will be called upon to help. So, are you ready? Are you ready to respond to a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Japan?

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Benjamin Franklin

Currently, the state of California has about $23M in unexpended ARRA Rapid Response funds that expire on June 30, 2011. Responding to the challenges caused by the tsunami in Crescent City, CA caused by the tsunami would be an ideal use of those funds. Below are links to two sample waiver requests that were based on requests from Gulf states in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Level 3 waiver package would include the 100% transfer approval and other more significant options but is usually reserved for statewide impacts.

WIA and regulation references related to natural disasters and the role of Rapid Response. You may note the lack of specific guidance… which suggests limited restrictions on how funds can be used to provide the solutions needed:

WIA Sec. 101
(38) Rapid response activity.

The term ``rapid response activity'' means an activity provided by a State, or by an entity designated by a State, with funds provided by the State under section 134(a)(1)(A), in the case of a permanent closure or mass layoff at a plant, facility, or enterprise, or a natural or other disaster, that results in mass job dislocation, in order to assist dislocated workers in obtaining reemployment as soon as possible, with services including—

(A) the establishment of onsite contact with employers and employee representatives--

(i) immediately after the State is notified of a current or projected permanent closure or mass layoff; or

(ii) in the case of a disaster, immediately after the State is made aware of mass job dislocation as a result of such disaster;

(B) the provision of information and access to available employment and training activities;

(C) assistance in establishing a labor-management committee, voluntarily agreed to by labor and management, with the ability to devise and implement a strategy for assessing the employment and training needs of dislocated workers and obtaining services to meet such needs;

(D) the provision of emergency assistance adapted to the particular closure, layoff, or disaster; and

(E) the provision of assistance to the local community in developing a coordinated response and in obtaining access to State economic development assistance.

WIA Sec. 134(a)
(2) Required statewide employment and training activities.
(A) Statewide rapid response activities.--A State shall use funds reserved as described in section 133(a)(2) to carry out statewide rapid response activities, which shall include--

(i) provision of rapid response activities, carried out in local areas by the State or by an entity designated by the State, working in conjunction with the local boards and the chief elected officials in the local areas; and

(ii) provision of additional assistance to local areas that experience disasters, mass layoffs or plant closings, or other events that precipitate substantial increases in  the number of unemployed individuals, carried out in local areas by the State or by an entity designated by the State, working in conjunction with the local boards and the chief elected officials in the local areas.

Sec. 665.300 
What are rapid response activities and who is responsible
for providing them?
(a) Rapid response activities are described in Secs. 665.310 through 665.330. They encompass the activities necessary to plan and deliver services to enable dislocated workers to transition to new employment as quickly as possible, following either a permanent closure or mass layoff, or a natural or other disaster resulting in a mass job dislocation.

Sec. 665.310 
What rapid response activities are required?
(d) The provision of emergency assistance adapted to the particular closing, layoff or disaster.

U.S. Department of Labor, Office of National Response

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)
Disaster Unemployment Assistance provides financial assistance to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster and who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits.

National Emergency Grants
National Emergency Grants (NEGs) temporarily expand the service capacity of Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Worker training and employment programs at the state and local levels by providing funding assistance in response to large, unexpected economic events which cause significant job losses. NEGs generally provide resources to states and local workforce investment boards to quickly reemploy laid-off workers by offering training to increase occupational skills.

PPT Presentation: The Art and Science of National Emergency Grants

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
Emergency Preparedness and Response

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