A Framework to Guide Communities Toward a Just and Resilient Recovery

Written by Phillip Kash and Jeff Hebert

Communities face two parallel crises because of COVID-19: an unprecedented global public health emergency, and the fastest economic decline on record, including over 6.6 million applications for unemployment insurance for the week of April 4 alone, and over 16.7 million applications cumulatively since March 21, while confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses continue to rise. While our public and private institutions rightfully focus on their immediate attention on emergency response, once we emerge from quarantine, we will need to collectively address the underlying economic and social challenges that made COVID-19 so devastating and destabilizing. A post-COVID-19 world can provide the opportunity to create just and resilient communities that can better weather future events.
Facing a Duel Crisis
Leading a just and resilient recovery

When COVID-19 struck the U.S., almost 40% of American households were unable to afford an emergency expense of even $400. 1 Because of this economic insecurity, the impacts of COVID-19 will be felt most sharply by those already in need of support. A just and resilient recovery will improve the well-being of all community members by addressing underlying inequities. Local leaders have the opportunity to recover stronger from this pandemic by taking a hard look at the underlying issues that contribute to the damage from COVID-19 in their community.
Choosing a Just and Resilient Recovery
Organizing principles for action
As the immediate threat from COVID-19 subsides, local leaders will shift their focus from emergency response to recovery. While the timeline for recovery is not linear – and health officials indeed have speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to recur – HR&A has developed a framework to guide the pursuit of a just and resilient recovery based on our work in past disasters.
Public and private institutions, including government, businesses, nonprofits, philanthropies, and community leaders, should organize their efforts around four phases: 1) emergency response, 2) stabilization, 3) adaptation, and 4) institutionalization.
COVID-19 has shown us that our communities are neither just nor resilient. As local leaders start the recovery process, each community will face a choice to either confront the issues that left so many community members vulnerable and our society as a whole fragile, or return to the status quo. Only recovery processes that address the underlying issues responsible will prepare communities for the next disaster.



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Phillip Kash is a nationally recognized practitioner and pioneer in resilience planning and disaster recovery. A leading expert on urban policy, Phillip works across the country to address two of the most pressing challenges facing cities today: climate adaptation, economic recovery and housing affordability. His visionary plans provide cities and their partners with strategic frameworks to guide their efforts; programs and policies to inform their actions; and implementation roadmaps that ensure projects are delivered.

Jeff Hebert is a pioneer of resilience planning and community revitalization. He works with cities around the country to develop strategies that mitigate future social, economic, and physical shocks and stresses. He is a national expert in the areas of resiliency, redevelopment, equitable and inclusionary growth, and economic development. Jeff was instrumental in the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina having served Mayor Mitch Landrieu as the city’s First Deputy Mayor & Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Resilience Officer, and as Executive Director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, he served as the Director of Community Planning for the Louisiana Recovery Authority under Governor Kathleen Blanco.

1 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018.” <link: https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2018-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201905.pdf<a href=”#ref1″