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Americans with Disabilities Act Opens Doors for All

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 14:29
Americans with Disabilities Act Opens Doors for All gloria.huang Wed, 08/05/2020 - 17:29 Author 484312

30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Celebrate. Learn. Share.

Sunday, July 26, marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This sweeping legislation led to an historic expansion of civil rights protections for people with disabilities across the nation. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, private businesses, public accommodations, telecommunications and access to state and local government programs. Today, its provisions cover more than 56 million Americans.

The passage of the ADA in 1990 has a personal significance for me, because it led me to focus on my career path working to improve the lives of people with disabilities as a lawyer practicing disability law. Now, as director of the Office of Disability integration and coordination since 2017, I am able to help people with disabilities participate in—and benefit from—FEMA’s programs and services. And I join in celebrating this important milestone today.

When FEMA was created in 1979, the ADA was still 10 years in the making. But the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 already prohibited FEMA and other federal entities from discriminating against people with disabilities. Yet, children with disabilities were still often in segregated public schools. There were state schools for children who were deaf and blind. Even in major cities, there weren’t always curb cuts, necessary for the mobility of wheelchair users. Elevators and ramps weren't required by law. Braille descriptions were left off signs and elevator control panels. Captioning for television programs didn't exist widely.

Over the course of this generation, we've seen some huge advancements in accessibility for people with disabilities. So today, I think it is appropriate that we celebrate our successes and how far we’ve come as a nation. That we learn from our experiences over the past 30 years. And that we share our ideas and best practices with each other.

As President George H. W. Bush said at the time, “With today’s signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

Many doors have been opened during the past 30 years thanks to the ADA. Public transportation has provided the means for people with disabilities to get to school, work and play. Changes in building codes have created opportunities for people with disabilities to choose the housing and communities they want to live in.  Technological advances have enabled people with disabilities to communicate better, faster and more seamlessly than ever before. Durable medical and rehabilitation technology have empowered people with disabilities to push harder, run faster and jump higher — competing for and winning medals on the world stage at the Paralympic Games.

There are many ways that the ADA has benefitted people with disabilities during emergencies and disasters. For example, thanks to the requirements in the ADA that mass transit be accessible, people with disabilities are now usually able to evacuate in the event of a disaster or emergency alongside people who don't have disabilities. This is especially important, because people with disabilities tend to rely more heavily on trains and buses. Today, most major cities also have paratransit as a daily transportation option – a door-to-door accessible pickup and transport service that can also be activated in emergencies. Other ways include sheltering, post-disaster longer term housing options and rebuilding communities in an accessible way.

FEMA, specifically the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and the Disability Integration Cadre, continue to lead the way in integrating the needs of people with disabilities into all of our agency’s programs and services. We work with our state, local, tribal and territorial partners to support them by providing technical assistance, training, tools and resources that guide them in serving people with disabilities in their jurisdictions.

The ADA opened the doors for FEMA and our partners to work together to serve disaster survivors with disabilities. We are proud to celebrate this important milestone and to continue our commitment to helping people with disabilities before, during and after disasters.

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Tropical Storm Isaias Reminds Us Disasters Don’t Wait

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 12:18
Tropical Storm Isaias Reminds Us Disasters Don’t Wait Listing Image jessica.geraci Mon, 08/03/2020 - 15:18

Tropical Storm Isaias is an important reminder that disasters don’t wait. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic remains a threat, even in the face of the strong winds and flooding that Isaias is bringing to the East Coast this week. It is vital that you are prepared for both. The best way to do this is to stay informed, know how to deal with all types of weather and always keep your personal safety in mind.

To stay informed, you will need to listen for emergency information and alerts. If told to evacuate by local officials, do so immediately. Pay attention to the wireless emergency alerts sent to your phone or that play on the radio. On the FEMA website, you can find out how to receive these types of weather alerts. You can also follow your local National Weather Service office and your FEMA regional office on social media.

When faced with tropical storms or hurricanes, it is important to determine how to best protect yourself from high winds and flooding.

  • For high winds, take refuge in a designated storm shelter or an interior room.
  • For flooding inside of a building, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic as you may become trapped by rising flood water.
  • Avoid walking, swimming or driving through flood waters. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down. One foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off bridges spanning over fast-moving water.

While tropical storms and hurricanes present immediate threats, it is important to still take precautions against COVID-19 when possible. Following these guidelines can help protect you from COVID-19 and hurricanes:

  • If you must go to a community or group shelter remember to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for protecting yourself and family from COVID-19.
  • Add cleaning and disinfectant items to your disaster supplies kit. This includes items such as soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces you may need to touch regularly.
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance between you and persons not part of your immediate family while at a shelter, and avoid crowds or gathering in groups as much as possible.
  • Anyone over two years old should use a cloth face covering while at shelters.

For more information on preparing for disasters, visit the Ready website.

 

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Making a Difference for 50 Years

Sun, 08/02/2020 - 06:06
Making a Difference for 50 Years zella.campbell Sun, 08/02/2020 - 09:06

By Greg Forrester, President and CEO at National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

For the past 5 years, volunteers from around the country travel to FEMA Headquarters in Washington D.C. each July to celebrate Partnership Day. Although we are not able to meet in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are together in spirit and we have a lot to celebrate!

Fifty years ago, six religious denominations and the American Red Cross formed the National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster (NVOAD), a coalition of national voluntary organizations that help people and communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. NVOAD now has 75 national member organizations, a state VOAD in all 50 states and six territories, and 15 private sector and educational partners. We average over 5 million volunteers per year, served over six million meals during the last six months, and donated thousands of hours towards disaster cleanup, rebuilding storm damaged homes, feeding the hungry, and providing spiritual/emotional support to those in need. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to make some changes but it hasn’t stopped us from helping people. Our member organizations are adapting their procedures and processes to serve safely to continue to meet needs during this pandemic and ongoing disasters. In addition to utilizing established trained leaders - organizations are recruiting and training community members not affected by the disaster who are eager to help their neighbors. High school and college students who are out of school have filled their free time working in food banks, delivering food to their neighbors, and assisting their communities. Member organizations have worked with federal, state, and local emergency management to re-open restaurant operations to prepare, package, and deliver meals in communities across the United States.  They have assisted with much needed blood drives, COVID testing sites, and provided mental/spiritual health services.

National VOAD works collaboratively with government agencies. We have a seat in FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center and our State VOADs are embedded in their state Emergency Operation Centers. As our government partners are establishing infrastructure restoration and rescue operations - our community based members/volunteers are helping establish sheltering, feeding, and cleanup operations. Communication and partnership between government, the private sector, and voluntary organizations leads to whole community response.

I want to thank all the volunteers who have contributed their time and talents to National VOAD and encourage anyone reading this to consider joining us. How many times have you watched a news report of people flooded out of their homes, seen pictures of evacuees staying in a shelter after a wildfire, or read about whole towns destroyed by a tornado and thought “I wish there was something I could do?” You don’t have to change careers  -  donate your time. You can use your skills, experience and abilities to help people rebuild their lives after disasters. It’s not always easy, there are struggles - but you get to say to yourself, “I made a difference.”

Visit our Virtual Partnership Day Exhibit Hall to learn more about how volunteer organizations work with FEMA to help people before, during and after disasters. To volunteer, visit NVOAD to find an organization to volunteer your time and talent!

 

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Introducing the New FEMA.gov

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 19:52
Introducing the New FEMA.gov zella.campbell Mon, 07/27/2020 - 22:52

Over the past two years, FEMA.gov has been visited over 80 million times, making it our most important communication tool to provide disaster survivors, emergency managers, government and private sector officials, and first responders with the information and assistance they need before, during and after disaster. Today we are excited to launch a fully redesigned FEMA.gov that is easy to navigate, focused on the user and accessible by all. This is a big step towards reducing the complexity of FEMA, one of the three main strategic goals for the agency.

This redesign is an opportunity to start fresh. We’ve upgraded our content management system and fully implemented the U.S. Web Design System for greater accessibility and mobile-friendly user experiences. Our team worked across the entire agency with program experts to rewrite thousands of pages in plain language and reorganize the information to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.

As you explore FEMA.gov, you may notice these major changes:
  • User focus. The old FEMA.gov became overwhelmingly organized by our office structure rather than common sense topics and information was often written in insider shorthand. The new navigation menus now help site visitors better identify where to find the information they are looking for.
  • Getting local. A new geo-filter search function allows people to enter a state or zip code to see active disaster declarations, alerts, press releases and other information specific to their location. Over time, we will be able to add more location features and content to ensure you can always find the most urgent and timely information for your area.
  • Modern web design. The site embraces U.S. Web Design System principles of starting with real user needs, embracing accessibility and consistent design. The launch of the new site is a first big step towards creating a unified, accessible and experience for our audiences across all our digital platforms and media.

This is a first step in what will be a continuing effort to make sure our customers can easily access the information needed.  We want your feedback to know what works for you and what you’d like to see improved.  We welcome you to check out the redesigned site, and then visit our Contact Us form to share your thoughts

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Americans with Disabilities Act Opens Doors for All

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 06:07
Author:  Linda Mastandrea, Director, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, FEMA

30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Celebrate. Learn. Share.

Sunday, July 26, marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This sweeping legislation led to an historic expansion of civil rights protections for people with disabilities across the nation. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, private businesses, public accommodations, telecommunications and access to state and local government programs. Today, its provisions cover more than 56 million Americans.

The passage of the ADA in 1990 has a personal significance for me, because it led me to focus on my career path working to improve the lives of people with disabilities as a lawyer practicing disability law. Now, as director of the Office of Disability integration and coordination since 2017, I am able to help people with disabilities participate in—and benefit from—FEMA’s programs and services. And I join in celebrating this important milestone today.

When FEMA was created in 1979, the ADA was still 10 years in the making. But the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 already prohibited FEMA and other federal entities from discriminating against people with disabilities. Yet, children with disabilities were still often in segregated public schools. There were state schools for children who were deaf and blind. Even in major cities, there weren’t always curb cuts, necessary for the mobility of wheelchair users. Elevators and ramps weren't required by law. Braille descriptions were left off signs and elevator control panels. Captioning for television programs didn't exist widely.

Over the course of this generation, we've seen some huge advancements in accessibility for people with disabilities. So today, I think it is appropriate that we celebrate our successes and how far we’ve come as a nation. That we learn from our experiences over the past 30 years. And that we share our ideas and best practices with each other.

As President George H. W. Bush said at the time, “With today’s signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

Many doors have been opened during the past 30 years thanks to the ADA. Public transportation has provided the means for people with disabilities to get to school, work and play. Changes in building codes have created opportunities for people with disabilities to choose the housing and communities they want to live in.  Technological advances have enabled people with disabilities to communicate better, faster and more seamlessly than ever before. Durable medical and rehabilitation technology have empowered people with disabilities to push harder, run faster and jump higher — competing for and winning medals on the world stage at the Paralympic Games.

There are many ways that the ADA has benefitted people with disabilities during emergencies and disasters. For example, thanks to the requirements in the ADA that mass transit be accessible, people with disabilities are now usually able to evacuate in the event of a disaster or emergency alongside people who don't have disabilities. This is especially important, because people with disabilities tend to rely more heavily on trains and buses. Today, most major cities also have paratransit as a daily transportation option – a door-to-door accessible pickup and transport service that can also be activated in emergencies. Other ways include sheltering, post-disaster longer term housing options and rebuilding communities in an accessible way.

FEMA, specifically the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and the Disability Integration Cadre, continue to lead the way in integrating the needs of people with disabilities into all of our agency’s programs and services. We work with our state, local, tribal and territorial partners to support them by providing technical assistance, training, tools and resources that guide them in serving people with disabilities in their jurisdictions.

The ADA opened the doors for FEMA and our partners to work together to serve disaster survivors with disabilities. We are proud to celebrate this important milestone and to continue our commitment to helping people with disabilities before, during and after disasters.

30 Ways FEMA Supports Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery for People with Disabilities

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 14:13
30 Ways FEMA Supports Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery for People with Disabilities zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 17:13

July 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The theme is Celebrate. Learn. Share. In the past 30 years, we've seen improved access to buildings, doctor’s offices, museums, eateries, shops, recreational venues and so much more. As they build, America’s cities and towns are planning for the needs of people with disabilities living in and visiting their communities. It’s now easier for people to be involved with their state and local governments and access their services and programs.

 

FEMA is committed to making sure that people with disabilities have access to, and can benefit from, our programs and services. To celebrate the 30th ADA Anniversary, here are 30 ways the agency supports emergency preparedness, response and recovery for people with disabilities.

  1. Developed a coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and disability dashboard that overlays disability demographics with COVID-19 cases and deaths to assist Regional Disability Integration Specialists in identifying potential areas of need.  
  2. Reorganized the disability integration cadre; developed new staff positions, tools and training to develop a highly skilled workforce that meet the needs of people with disabilities affected by disasters.   
  3. Created the Program and Policy Branch, increasing our agency’s capacity to serve people with disabilities and focus on policy development; added staff liaisons to FEMA program areas.   
  4. Hired a data analyst to identify people affected in disaster and measure recovery outcomes for disaster survivors with disabilities.  
  5. Hosted calls with our regional disability integration specialists in the 10 FEMA regions to identify and address concerns of people with disabilities during COVID-19 and for future disasters.  
  6. Worked with FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute and Center for Domestic Preparedness to increase campus access for students with disabilities.  
  7. Engaged in ways to integrate disability competency and disability integration principles in campus training delivered to the agency, emergency managers and first responders.  
  8. Updating the “Integrating the Needs of People with Disabilities in Emergency Management” course that will provide emergency planners real-world opportunities to test their disaster plans against legal and regulatory requirements to serve people with disabilities.  
  9. Simplified the FEMA disaster-survivor registration intake questions on  disability and disability-related loss, resulting in an increase in the percentage of registrants identifying as having disabilities from less than 3% to approximately 15%--in line with disability demographic estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.  
  10. Engaged in developing the “2016 Response and Recovery Federal Interagency Operational Plans” annex, creating a system to provide reasonable accommodations;  addressing evacuation by keeping people with disabilities together with their durable medical equipment and service animals; providing accessible transportation; and, supporting the mental health needs of disaster survivors.  
  11. Participated in a vendor review panel, which made sure that vendors of showers, sheltering cots and portable bathrooms and laundry facilities met accessibility standards for people with disabilities in shelters.  
  12. Conducted listening sessions together with the Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office to hear from disability Non-Governmental Organizations and emergency managers in California, Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on how we can work together to better serve people with disabilities.  
  13. Created the “Disability Demographics and Program Utilization Report,” published in February 2020, which studied the experiences of people with disabilities who apply for FEMA assistance, and provided us with information on ways to improve our programs and services based on those experiences.  
  14. Facilitated inclusion of an introduction to FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and disability integration into FEMA employee onboarding process.  
  15. Engaged with state and local emergency managers nationwide to improve disaster services for people with disabilities.  
  16. Presented FEMA program updates on national calls hosted by the ADA National Network, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities and the U.S. Access Board, among others.  
  17. As part of the federal Disability Interagency Working Group, shared information and best practices about serving people with disabilities across the federal government.  
  18. Deployed disability integration advisors to disasters nationwide to provide advice and guidance to FEMA senior leadership and just-in-time training to staff to ensure our programs and services meet the needs of people with disabilities.  
  19. Worked with the Individual Assistance Program to update the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide and National Mass Care Strategy: Transition to Alternate Sheltering to make sure the needs of disaster survivors with disabilities were integrated into the guidance.  
  20. Engaged with Public Assistance (PA) for the first time to discuss ways to leverage PA dollars to build more accessible, resilient and sustainable communities after disasters.  
  21. Helped the agency develop processes so that joint field offices, alternate field offices and disaster recovery centers meet accessibility requirements.  
  22. Facilitated creation of core advisory groups in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, bringing together local emergency managers, municipal officials and disability NGO representatives to address the needs of people with disabilities.  
  23. Worked with FEMA programs to implement Section 1212 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, which included legislation to help Americans with disabilities receive disaster assistance to better meet their needs, particularly related to the repair or replacement of accessibility related real or personal property.  
  24. Produced “We Prepare Every Day” videos showing people with disabilities taking charge to prepare for emergencies. We have also  provided equal access to video content by providing open captioninga certified deaf interpreter, and audio descriptions.  
  25. Produced accessible videos with information about registering for FEMA assistance, disaster recovery centers, filing a flood claim and more. Some videos are also available in multiple languages.  
  26. Partnered with the American Red Cross in Puerto Rico after the 2020 earthquakes providing more than 200 sensory kits with a weighted blanket, noise cancelling earphones, fidget spinner and stress ball to disaster survivors in need.  
  27. At the Arkansas Department of Human Wellness Fair in March 2020, taught people with disabilities, older adults, caregivers and medical staff to plan ahead for disasters, build an emergency supply kit and write an emergency plan.  
  28. Made Including People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs in Disaster Operations a required course for FEMA employees.  
  29. Equipped disaster recovery centers with assistive and communication technology devices to facilitate accessible and effective communication for people with disabilities visiting disaster recovery centers.  
  30. Offers preparedness tips for people with disabilities on Ready.gov. Information includes tips on creating a support network of family, friends and others who can help during an emergency, identifying an out-of-town contact and packing a go bag with items for your unique needs, such as extra medications or hearing aid batteries.  

As we look back on the last 30 years, our nation has made many strides to help support people with disabilities.   FEMA remains committed to working toward building the nation contemplated by the ADA—one where people with disabilities are woven into the fabric of our neighborhoods and integrated into our communities, living, working and playing side by side with family, neighbors and friends.

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Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 13

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 14:11
Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 13 zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 17:11

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on communities that are using new protocols and resources to adapt to new learning environments.

Precautions at Primary Schools

At a Nashville, Tennessee day school, teachers disinfect kids’ lunchboxes at drop-off in the morning, and children must switch into a designated pair of shoes that remain at the school. Schools are also removing soft toys and dress-up clothes and dividing supplies, such as markers and scissors, so that each child can have their own. To prepare for students who may test positive for COVID-19 as operations resume, some schools designated isolation rooms where sick children can wait for pickup from school. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends that the isolation room is adjacent to a nurse’s office and features an outside access door.

Precautions at Child Care Centers

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a preschool divided its playground into sections so that different classes could play at the same time. To accommodate limited indoor space for social distancing, a childcare center in Atlanta, Georgia placed privacy dividers between cots and cribs, which were arranged in an alternated head-to-toe pattern. In classrooms with infants, teachers are using clear masks so that infants can take cues from facial expressions.

Staffing to Support Reduced Class Sizes

Although school reopening guidance recommends emptier classrooms to encourage social distancing, overcrowded schools in New York have about 30 students in one class and an insufficient number of teachers to accommodate reduced class sizes. To address the staffing shortage, the president of New York City's teacher's union suggested supplementing staffing for in-person or remote teaching with employees from the city’s Department of Education who have teaching certificates. Classes may also be held in cafeterias or gyms to allow for adequate social distancing.

Resources to Support Remote Learning

Nordic countries, such as Estonia, Finland, and Denmark, made their remote learning tools and resources available for global use at no cost, although the duration of free access varies by resource. This online source is regularly updated and allows users to sort by "General Education", "Early Years", and "Higher Education". Examples of resources include management tools for lessons and homework assignments, exam and quiz generators, and messaging applications for communication between teachers and students or families.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

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Communities of Faith Partner with FEMA to Address Food Insecurity

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 14:06
Communities of Faith Partner with FEMA to Address Food Insecurity zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 17:06

I grew up the son of two pastors in The Salvation Army.  While other kids I knew were riding bikes, playing newly released Atari and Commodore 64’s, I was often at the church preparing for midweek events like youth activities and Wednesday night prayer meetings. Setting up chairs, sweeping floors, organizing construction paper and scissors for kids’ activities kept me busy while my parents prepared for service.  During the holidays, these roles turned to setting up toy shops and packing food boxes for distribution, working in warehouses sorting donations of new and used, usable versus not usable.  I learned a lot about how being organized aids in distribution to those in need in an equitable and efficient manner.

Right now, there are a lot of people who need help. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created some of the highest levels of unemployment ever seen in this country. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families. Where do many of them turn when they are in need? To their local houses of worship and faith-based organizations.

Part of my job now is explaining government programs and systems to leaders in the faith community and helping them to build capacity in their communities. A pastor with a food pantry or the manager of a local soup kitchen may not realize that there is funding available to not only support but also to expand those programs.  As the director of the DHS Center for Faith and Opportunities Initiatives, I am privileged to work with faith leaders of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples across the country to support and connect them with available government resources. 

In April, FEMA’s Public Assistance program announced that for the cost of purchasing and distributing food to people who do not have access to it as a result of COVID-19 was an eligible expense for reimbursement under the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Since then, state, local, tribal and territorial governments have entered into agreements or contracts with faith and community organizations to purchase and distribute food.  With these programs, state, local, tribal and territorial governments can work with faith and community-based organizations to address food insecurity. To see then innovation through partnerships has been inspiring.  I thought I would share just a few of the thousands that are ongoing.

In Maryland, The Salvation Army in partnership with Meals on Wheels and Department on Aging are partnering to serve many that were quarantined and unable to access traditional food programs.  

In Arizona, 48 regional grocery retail distribution centers are packaging and transporting food to six regional food banks. 

In California, the Great Plates Program is helping seniors and other adults at high risk from COVID-19 to stay healthy at home by delivering three nutritional meals a day.

Connecticut’s emergency feeding program is providing food through home deliveries and food distribution sites, and procuring, packaging and preparing food for people exposed to or at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

FEMA Public Assistance will reimburse the Kansas Division of Emergency Management for the cost of distributing more than three million pounds of food per month to hungry families and those impacted by the virus. Public Assistance dollars are reimbursing Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas for food purchased and distributed to food banks.

FEMA is obligated to ensure that the millions of dollars appropriated by Congress reaches the people and communities it is intended to serve.  Resources from the federal government offer vital assistance to communities, but we rely on our partners at the community level for their expertise in identifying those in greatest need and getting it the last mile, in the hands of those that need it most.

We know partnership with the faith community is so important.  Faith-based organizations are in the community full-time. They know the parishioner who lost his job, the temple member with a serious illness, the family that needs assistance but is embarrassed to ask for it. They serve everyday with little to no recognition, just because their faith calls them to serve others.

Growing up in the faith community, I always knew I wanted to use my talents to serve people. I started my emergency management career while in college and I quickly discovered that emergency management has parallels to those Christmas toy drives, it is all about leveraging limited resources, donations and volunteers to do the most good.

Sometimes government and the faith community use different words, but we have the same goal: helping people.  I am honored that I get to serve our government with men and women who embody service to others across DHS and especially within FEMA.

To find out how your community can request assistance, visit the FEMA website.

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Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 6

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 14:03
Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 6 zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 17:03

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on making sure health services are accessible to all.

Online Mental Wellness Sessions

To mitigate a potential increase in psychological distress among Native American communities as a result of social isolation and health and economic impacts of the pandemic, the Native Wellness Institute launched a daily online Power Hour for healing and wellness that incorporates ancestral teachings and traditions. These sessions have covered topics such as self-care, resiliency and activism.

Telehealth for Vulnerable Populations

Throughout June, the University of Memphis Telehealth for Vulnerable Populations presented webinars for healthcare professionals, clinicians and leaders of community-based organizations. The webinars covered topics such as best practices for delivering telehealth to underserved or vulnerable clients, setting up the home environment for telehealth, telehealth for school-based practitioners and billing practices. The presentations discussed ways to engage caregivers and build rapport with clients virtually, especially when providing care to patients from diverse cultural or religious backgrounds.

SURGE Outreach Teams

In response to rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases in South Florida, Miami-Dade County officials have deployed Strategic Unified Response to Guideline Education (SURGE) Outreach Teams. Surge teams visit neighborhoods associated with zip codes that have recorded spikes in COVID-19 cases to educate residents and businesses about COVID-19 safety protocols, provide information about COVID-19 testing locations and distribute masks and sanitary supplies.. SURGE Team members include county employees, goodwill Ambassadors from the Office of Community Advocacy, faith organizations and community-based organizations like the Dream Defenders, the Circle of Brotherhood, the Coalition of Florida Farmworkers Organization and Chamber South.

Testing Access in Churches

In New York City, a collaboration between the governor's office, 24 churches serving communities of color, and Northwell Health aims to expand COVID-19 and antibody testing access for Black and Hispanic residents, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The churches provide space for testing, the governor's office provides general staff, supplies, and personal protective equipment. Northwell Health provides nurses, emergency medical technicians and phlebotomists. Residents can call participating churches to register for an appointment or wait in line, while keeping six feet apart and wearing masks for walk-ins.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

Related Locations All

Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 15

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 13:54
Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 15 zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 16:54

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on unique ways communities are educating children about COVID-19.

“COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others?”

The Smithsonian Institution is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) to develop an educational tool for young people that blends inquiry-based science, social and emotional learning and civic engagement. The guide, "COVID-19! How can I protect myself and others?", lets youth participate in seven activities which explore the global impact of COVID-19, demonstrate safe practices, teaches methods to research more information about COVID-19 and aids in understanding scientific evidence.

 "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19"

Harvard University partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute to launch a COVID-19 resources toolbox for tribal nations. One featured resource is a children's book called "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19." The book aims to educate children in tribal nations about COVID-19 and provides coping strategies.

“We’re Going to Be O.K.”

Two physicians wrote a children's book to inform and empower children who are living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted to children between the ages of 5 to 9 years old, the book authors were purposeful in representing communities of color in the illustrations. "We're Going to be O.K." follows the story of a young African American protagonist as he learns about the change COVID-19 will bring to his life and how to cope with grief and stress. The book is available for free download.

 

“From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19"

The United Nations (UN) released a book called "From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19" which incorporates the direct perspectives of children from around the world. The book shares children's experiences on how their communities are taking care of each other and keeping vulnerable family members safe. The book aims to help children overcome the uncertainties of the pandemic by being creative, staying positive, spreading kindness, and taking precautions to stay healthy.

 

Grover from Sesame Street on Coping During COVID-19

Grover from Sesame Street joined TV news hosts in talking directly to children about the importance of wearing masks, how to stay connected with friends, and how to cope with negative emotions related to the pandemic. An audio version with a transcript of the conversation can be found here.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

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Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 8

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 13:52
Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 8 zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 16:52

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on ways organizations are helping their communities stay safe.

Safe Practices During Protests

To encourage safe practices during protests, some health departments and experts have posted health recommendations on social media, such as wearing a face covering and using eye protection, using hand sanitizer, maintaining adequate social distancing from others and using signs or noisemakers instead of yelling to reduce the spread of droplets.

Therapeutic Robotic Pets

In an effort to combat social isolation due to strict visitation rules at nursing homes, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs has provided isolating seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia with therapeutic robotic pets. Research has shown robotic pets to have similar positive effects as traditional pet therapy for seniors.

Reopening Courts Virtual “Picnic” Courts

Due to restrictions on the number of people who can enter public buildings, some courthouses in Prattville, Alabama have created a "picnic” court for traffic violations and child support. Respondents are able to handle matters virtually under a canopy located on the courthouse lawn.

Physical Barriers

The common pleas courts in Franklin County, Ohio is working to keep jurors, prosecutors, attorneys judge, bailiff, and witnesses safe by installing plexiglass barriers.  Additionally, only 10 observers will be allowed inside the courtroom at a time and they’ve reduced the need for multiple stops throughout the courthouse by installing video terminals so some matters can be completed from a single location.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

 

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Providing Food and Shelter Relief to Communities Across the Country

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 13:48
Providing Food and Shelter Relief to Communities Across the Country zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 16:48

As the nation faces many new challenges amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, one of the toughest is also a consistent one: providing food and shelter for those in need.

The National Board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) was formed to meet challenges such as these. This week, the program began disbursing $200 million in grants from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help people and communities across the country that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will support local social service agencies and organizations dedicated to feeding, sheltering and providing critical resources to our nation's hungry and homeless.

EFSP grants can be used for a variety of services to assist hungry and homeless people including food in the form of served meals or groceries, payment of one-month’s utility bills to prevent loss of services, payment of one-month’s rent or mortgage to prevent evictions or foreclosures, and transition assistance from shelters to stable living conditions.

Over the past 38 years, EFSP distributed more than $4.8 billion to over 14,000 organizations in more than 2,500 communities in the United States and its territories. EFSP assisted in providing an estimated 3.1 billion meals, 293.4 million nights of shelter, 7.2 million utility payments and 5.3 million rent/mortgage payments to help families stay in their homes will have been provided.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program was established by Congress in 1983. The legislation created a National Board, chaired by FEMA, that consists of representatives from American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Salvation Army and United Way Worldwide. Congress appropriates funding to FEMA which then awards it to the National Board. Using a formula designed to allocate money to areas with the highest need, the National Board qualifies jurisdictions (counties and cities) for funding.

Once jurisdictions are selected, local boards convene to consider applications from local social service agencies. Local boards are made up of representatives from voluntary organizations with knowledge of and experience with community need. A homeless or formerly homeless person serves on every local board. Oversight by the National Board, FEMA and independent auditors ensures there is accountability in the stewardship of the program.

For 38 years, EFSP has been working to ensure that even in the toughest times, impacted communities across our country can get the help they need. This work continues as EFSP rises to meet COVID-19 challenges by helping to meet the basic food and shelter needs of the most vulnerable people in our nation.

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Preparing the Nation for the 2020 Hurricane Season

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 13:14
Preparing the Nation for the 2020 Hurricane Season zella.campbell Tue, 07/21/2020 - 16:14

Since March 18, FEMA has led the whole-of-America response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We have worked with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, as well as non-governmental organizations and the private sector to fight COVID-19. We have helped deliver millions of supplies, provided over $1.6 billion in disaster relief funds and expanded testing capabilities across the country. The lessons we have learned along the way are essential to the new challenges we face as we enter the hurricane seasons.

Our agency has been making extensive efforts not only to continue normal disaster preparations, but to also prepare for those disasters while the COVID-19 response continues. These efforts may look different as we practice social distancing and continue to slow the spread. To prepare for these new challenges, we released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season. This guidance will help emergency managers and public health officials best prepare for the upcoming hurricane season while continuing to respond to COVID-19.

The guidance outlines the anticipated challenges to disaster operations posed by the pandemic and highlights planning considerations based on those challenges. It also outlines how we plan to adapt response and recovery operations to create a shared understanding of expectations between FEMA and emergency managers. It includes guidance, checklists and resources to support emergency managers as they adapt their response and recovery planning during this COVID environment.

While the document focuses on the 2020 hurricane season, most planning considerations can be applied to any disaster operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as, flooding, wildfires and more.

In addition to providing guidance, we are actively preparing our workforce and putting plans in place to support state, local, tribal and territorial partners in responding to disasters. These efforts include:

  • Sheltering: We are working with partners on their locally implemented, state-managed, and federally supported sheltering planning efforts to ensure the safety and security of all.
  • Establishing virtual operations: We have established virtual Joint Field Offices and National and Regional Coordination Centers. These virtual response centers allow us to serve communities after a disaster while still practicing social distancing.
  • Inspections: Whenever possible, we will conduct virtual inspections for the agency’s Individual Assistance grants. In addition, joint Preliminary Damage Assessments for Public Assistance may also be conducted remotely.
  • Disaster Survivor Assistance: In coordination with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, we will determine the use of Disaster Recovery Centers or Disaster Survivor Assistance teams in accordance with the phased reopening of an impacted area. We may use online and phone registration, as well as virtual assessments to ensure program delivery.

Our team is more prepared than ever to face new and old challenges, to work with our government and non-government partners and to plan for disasters. We are ready. We are FEMA.

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30 Ways FEMA Supports Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery for People with Disabilities

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 09:14
Author:  FEMA Office of External Affairs

July 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The theme is Celebrate. Learn. Share. In the past 30 years, we've seen improved access to buildings, doctor’s offices, museums, eateries, shops, recreational venues and so much more. As they build, America’s cities and towns are planning for the needs of people with disabilities living in and visiting their communities. It’s now easier for people to be involved with their state and local governments and access their services and programs.

 

FEMA is committed to making sure that people with disabilities have access to, and can benefit from, our programs and services. To celebrate the 30th ADA Anniversary, here are 30 ways the agency supports emergency preparedness, response and recovery for people with disabilities.

  1. Developed a coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and disability dashboard that overlays disability demographics with COVID-19 cases and deaths to assist Regional Disability Integration Specialists in identifying potential areas of need.
     
  2. Reorganized the disability integration cadre; developed new staff positions, tools and training to develop a highly skilled workforce that meet the needs of people with disabilities affected by disasters. 
     
  3. Created the Program and Policy Branch, increasing our agency’s capacity to serve people with disabilities and focus on policy development; added staff liaisons to FEMA program areas. 
     
  4. Hired a data analyst to identify people affected in disaster and measure recovery outcomes for disaster survivors with disabilities.
     
  5. Hosted calls with our regional disability integration specialists in the 10 FEMA regions to identify and address concerns of people with disabilities during COVID-19 and for future disasters.
     
  6. Worked with FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute and Center for Domestic Preparedness to increase campus access for students with disabilities.
     
  7. Engaged in ways to integrate disability competency and disability integration principles in campus training delivered to the agency, emergency managers and first responders.
     
  8. Updating the “Integrating the Needs of People with Disabilities in Emergency Management” course that will provide emergency planners real-world opportunities to test their disaster plans against legal and regulatory requirements to serve people with disabilities.
     
  9. Simplified the FEMA disaster-survivor registration intake questions on  disability and disability-related loss, resulting in an increase in the percentage of registrants identifying as having disabilities from less than 3% to approximately 15%--in line with disability demographic estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
     
  10. Engaged in developing the “2016 Response and Recovery Federal Interagency Operational Plans” annex, creating a system to provide reasonable accommodations;  addressing evacuation by keeping people with disabilities together with their durable medical equipment and service animals; providing accessible transportation; and, supporting the mental health needs of disaster survivors.
     
  11. Participated in a vendor review panel, which made sure that vendors of showers, sheltering cots and portable bathrooms and laundry facilities met accessibility standards for people with disabilities in shelters.
     
  12. Conducted listening sessions together with the Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office to hear from disability Non-Governmental Organizations and emergency managers in California, Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on how we can work together to better serve people with disabilities.
     
  13. Created the “Disability Demographics and Program Utilization Report,” published in February 2020, which studied the experiences of people with disabilities who apply for FEMA assistance, and provided us with information on ways to improve our programs and services based on those experiences.
     
  14. Facilitated inclusion of an introduction to FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and disability integration into FEMA employee onboarding process.
     
  15. Engaged with state and local emergency managers nationwide to improve disaster services for people with disabilities.
     
  16. Presented FEMA program updates on national calls hosted by the ADA National Network, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities and the U.S. Access Board, among others.
     
  17. As part of the federal Disability Interagency Working Group, shared information and best practices about serving people with disabilities across the federal government.
     
  18. Deployed disability integration advisors to disasters nationwide to provide advice and guidance to FEMA senior leadership and just-in-time training to staff to ensure our programs and services meet the needs of people with disabilities.
     
  19. Worked with the Individual Assistance Program to update the Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide and National Mass Care Strategy: Transition to Alternate Sheltering to make sure the needs of disaster survivors with disabilities were integrated into the guidance.
     
  20. Engaged with Public Assistance (PA) for the first time to discuss ways to leverage PA dollars to build more accessible, resilient and sustainable communities after disasters.
     
  21. Helped the agency develop processes so that joint field offices, alternate field offices and disaster recovery centers meet accessibility requirements.
     
  22. Facilitated creation of core advisory groups in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, bringing together local emergency managers, municipal officials and disability NGO representatives to address the needs of people with disabilities.
     
  23. Worked with FEMA programs to implement Section 1212 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, which included legislation to help Americans with disabilities receive disaster assistance to better meet their needs, particularly related to the repair or replacement of accessibility related real or personal property.
     
  24. Produced “We Prepare Every Day” videos showing people with disabilities taking charge to prepare for emergencies. We have also  provided equal access to video content by providing open captioning, a certified deaf interpreter, and audio descriptions.
     
  25. Produced accessible videos with information about registering for FEMA assistance, disaster recovery centers, filing a flood claim and more. Some videos are also available in multiple languages.
     
  26. Partnered with the American Red Cross in Puerto Rico after the 2020 earthquakes providing more than 200 sensory kits with a weighted blanket, noise cancelling earphones, fidget spinner and stress ball to disaster survivors in need.
     
  27. At the Arkansas Department of Human Wellness Fair in March 2020, taught people with disabilities, older adults, caregivers and medical staff to plan ahead for disasters, build an emergency supply kit and write an emergency plan.
     
  28. Made Including People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs in Disaster Operations a required course for FEMA employees.
     
  29. Equipped disaster recovery centers with assistive and communication technology devices to facilitate accessible and effective communication for people with disabilities visiting disaster recovery centers.
     
  30. Offers preparedness tips for people with disabilities on Ready.gov. Information includes tips on creating a support network of family, friends and others who can help during an emergency, identifying an out-of-town contact and packing a go bag with items for your unique needs, such as extra medications or hearing aid batteries.
     

As we look back on the last 30 years, our nation has made many strides to help support people with disabilities.   FEMA remains committed to working toward building the nation contemplated by the ADA—one where people with disabilities are woven into the fabric of our neighborhoods and integrated into our communities, living, working and playing side by side with family, neighbors and friends.

Americans With Disabilities Act's 30th Anniversary

Mon, 07/20/2020 - 08:29
Americans With Disabilities Act's 30th Anniversary jordana.fyne Mon, 07/20/2020 - 11:29

July 26, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This sweeping civil rights legislation expanded on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by federally funded entities. The ADA goes further, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment (Title I), state and local government services (Title II), public accommodations (Title III) and telecommunications (Title IV). Its provisions cover more than 56 million Americans, or the approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population who have a disability.

FEMA is committed to helping people before, during and after disasters, ensuring that people with disabilities have access to, and can benefit from, our programs and services. Visit our Office of Disability Integration and Coordination page to learn more.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 13

Fri, 07/17/2020 - 13:57
Author:  FEMA Office of External Affairs

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on communities that are using new protocols and resources to adapt to new learning environments.

Precautions at Primary Schools

At a Nashville, Tennessee day school, teachers disinfect kids’ lunchboxes at drop-off in the morning, and children must switch into a designated pair of shoes that remain at the school. Schools are also removing soft toys and dress-up clothes and dividing supplies, such as markers and scissors, so that each child can have their own. To prepare for students who may test positive for COVID-19 as operations resume, some schools designated isolation rooms where sick children can wait for pickup from school. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends that the isolation room is adjacent to a nurse’s office and features an outside access door.

Precautions at Child Care Centers

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a preschool divided its playground into sections so that different classes could play at the same time. To accommodate limited indoor space for social distancing, a childcare center in Atlanta, Georgia placed privacy dividers between cots and cribs, which were arranged in an alternated head-to-toe pattern. In classrooms with infants, teachers are using clear masks so that infants can take cues from facial expressions.

Staffing to Support Reduced Class Sizes

Although school reopening guidance recommends emptier classrooms to encourage social distancing, overcrowded schools in New York have about 30 students in one class and an insufficient number of teachers to accommodate reduced class sizes. To address the staffing shortage, the president of New York City's teacher's union suggested supplementing staffing for in-person or remote teaching with employees from the city’s Department of Education who have teaching certificates. Classes may also be held in cafeterias or gyms to allow for adequate social distancing.

Resources to Support Remote Learning

Nordic countries, such as Estonia, Finland, and Denmark, made their remote learning tools and resources available for global use at no cost, although the duration of free access varies by resource. This online source is regularly updated and allows users to sort by "General Education", "Early Years", and "Higher Education". Examples of resources include management tools for lessons and homework assignments, exam and quiz generators, and messaging applications for communication between teachers and students or families.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

Communities of Faith Partner with FEMA to Address Food Insecurity

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 09:40
Author:  Kevin Smith, Director, DHS Center for Faith and Opportunities Initiatives

I grew up the son of two pastors in The Salvation Army.  While other kids I knew were riding bikes, playing newly released Atari and Commodore 64’s, I was often at the church preparing for midweek events like youth activities and Wednesday night prayer meetings. Setting up chairs, sweeping floors, organizing construction paper and scissors for kids’ activities kept me busy while my parents prepared for service.  During the holidays, these roles turned to setting up toy shops and packing food boxes for distribution, working in warehouses sorting donations of new and used, usable versus not usable.  I learned a lot about how being organized aids in distribution to those in need in an equitable and efficient manner.

Right now, there are a lot of people who need help. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created some of the highest levels of unemployment ever seen in this country. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families. Where do many of them turn when they are in need? To their local houses of worship and faith-based organizations.

Part of my job now is explaining government programs and systems to leaders in the faith community and helping them to build capacity in their communities. A pastor with a food pantry or the manager of a local soup kitchen may not realize that there is funding available to not only support but also to expand those programs.  As the director of the DHS Center for Faith and Opportunities Initiatives, I am privileged to work with faith leaders of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples across the country to support and connect them with available government resources. 

In April, FEMA’s Public Assistance program announced that for the cost of purchasing and distributing food to people who do not have access to it as a result of COVID-19 was an eligible expense for reimbursement under the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Since then, state, local, tribal and territorial governments have entered into agreements or contracts with faith and community organizations to purchase and distribute food.  With these programs, state, local, tribal and territorial governments can work with faith and community-based organizations to address food insecurity. To see then innovation through partnerships has been inspiring.  I thought I would share just a few of the thousands that are ongoing.

In Maryland, The Salvation Army in partnership with Meals on Wheels and Department on Aging are partnering to serve many that were quarantined and unable to access traditional food programs.  

In Arizona, 48 regional grocery retail distribution centers are packaging and transporting food to six regional food banks. 

In California, the Great Plates Program is helping seniors and other adults at high risk from COVID-19 to stay healthy at home by delivering three nutritional meals a day.

Connecticut’s emergency feeding program is providing food through home deliveries and food distribution sites, and procuring, packaging and preparing food for people exposed to or at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

FEMA Public Assistance will reimburse the Kansas Division of Emergency Management for the cost of distributing more than three million pounds of food per month to hungry families and those impacted by the virus. Public Assistance dollars are reimbursing Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas for food purchased and distributed to food banks.

FEMA is obligated to ensure that the millions of dollars appropriated by Congress reaches the people and communities it is intended to serve.  Resources from the federal government offer vital assistance to communities, but we rely on our partners at the community level for their expertise in identifying those in greatest need and getting it the last mile, in the hands of those that need it most.

We know partnership with the faith community is so important.  Faith-based organizations are in the community full-time. They know the parishioner who lost his job, the temple member with a serious illness, the family that needs assistance but is embarrassed to ask for it. They serve everyday with little to no recognition, just because their faith calls them to serve others.

Growing up in the faith community, I always knew I wanted to use my talents to serve people. I started my emergency management career while in college and I quickly discovered that emergency management has parallels to those Christmas toy drives, it is all about leveraging limited resources, donations and volunteers to do the most good.

Sometimes government and the faith community use different words, but we have the same goal: helping people.  I am honored that I get to serve our government with men and women who embody service to others across DHS and especially within FEMA.

To find out how your community can request assistance, visit the FEMA website.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of July 6

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 07:49
Author:  FEMA Office of External Affairs

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on making sure health services are accessible to all.

Online Mental Wellness Sessions

To mitigate a potential increase in psychological distress among Native American communities as a result of social isolation and health and economic impacts of the pandemic, the Native Wellness Institute launched a daily online Power Hour for healing and wellness that incorporates ancestral teachings and traditions. These sessions have covered topics such as self-care, resiliency and activism.

Telehealth for Vulnerable Populations

Throughout June, the University of Memphis Telehealth for Vulnerable Populations presented webinars for healthcare professionals, clinicians and leaders of community-based organizations. The webinars covered topics such as best practices for delivering telehealth to underserved or vulnerable clients, setting up the home environment for telehealth, telehealth for school-based practitioners and billing practices. The presentations discussed ways to engage caregivers and build rapport with clients virtually, especially when providing care to patients from diverse cultural or religious backgrounds.

SURGE Outreach Teams

In response to rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases in South Florida, Miami-Dade County officials have deployed Strategic Unified Response to Guideline Education (SURGE) Outreach Teams. Surge teams visit neighborhoods associated with zip codes that have recorded spikes in COVID-19 cases to educate residents and businesses about COVID-19 safety protocols, provide information about COVID-19 testing locations and distribute masks and sanitary supplies.. SURGE Team members include county employees, goodwill Ambassadors from the Office of Community Advocacy, faith organizations and community-based organizations like the Dream Defenders, the Circle of Brotherhood, the Coalition of Florida Farmworkers Organization and Chamber South.

Testing Access in Churches

In New York City, a collaboration between the governor's office, 24 churches serving communities of color, and Northwell Health aims to expand COVID-19 and antibody testing access for Black and Hispanic residents, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The churches provide space for testing, the governor's office provides general staff, supplies, and personal protective equipment. Northwell Health provides nurses, emergency medical technicians and phlebotomists. Residents can call participating churches to register for an appointment or wait in line, while keeping six feet apart and wearing masks for walk-ins.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.

Webinars Provide Details on COVID-19 Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 09:27
Author:  FEMA Office of External Affairs

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic introduces new challenges to hurricane season.  To prepare the nation, FEMA is holding webinars to expand awareness and understanding of the recently released COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season and the Exercise Starter Kits for Preparedness in a Pandemic.

The operational guidance document provides actionable information to state, local, tribal and territorial officials to prepare for response and recovery operations amidst the ongoing pandemic. While it focuses on hurricane season preparedness, the planning considerations can be applied to all-hazards events, including flooding, tornadoes, and wildfires. The document has been downloaded from the website nearly 40,000 times, providing planning support to thousands of communities across the country.

The Exercise Starter Kits, which were developed to be used alongside this document, also provide partners planning and exercise documents they can use to conduct their own workshops on preparedness in a pandemic. The Exercise Starter Kits have been downloaded more than 59,500 times, in addition to 11,600 downloads of the Preparedness in a Pandemic Exercise Starter Kits.

The webinars focused on these tools have so far hosted more than 1,500 participants from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government, academia, associations and the private sector.  They allow emergency managers an opportunity to discuss how the guidance and exercise kits can assist their communities in reviewing and modifying their plans, while still managing the constraints and limitations of the ongoing pandemic.


This week, FEMA will hold the following webinars:

  • Register: 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 23
  • Register:  4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 24
  • Register: 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 25


Webinar discussions have focused on:

  • Sheltering and Social Distancing: Participants expressed concerns with having to decide between limiting shelter capacity to adhere to social distancing constraints or sacrificing social distancing guidelines in order to accommodate more people within the shelters. 
  • Recovery: Representatives from the Field Operations Directorate, Individual Assistance, and Public Assistance provided information on virtual preliminary damage assessments, sheltering and direct housing missions.  
  • Exercise Starter Kits: Discussions focused on the kit’s adaptability to a variety of audiences and how they could be used to support planning efforts across the whole community.


The webinars also offer a list of resources to help participants locate additional planning products, register for National Incident Management System Alerts and access the FEMA and White House coronavirus websites.

Communities on the Frontline: Week of June 15

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 13:00
Author:  FEMA Office of External Affairs

Around the world, communities are using innovative approaches to support coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts. Each week, FEMA is highlighting these extraordinary efforts so that other others can learn from and expand on them. This week focuses on unique ways communities are educating children about COVID-19.

“COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others?”

The Smithsonian Institution is collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) to develop an educational tool for young people that blends inquiry-based science, social and emotional learning and civic engagement. The guide, "COVID-19! How can I protect myself and others?", lets youth participate in seven activities which explore the global impact of COVID-19, demonstrate safe practices, teaches methods to research more information about COVID-19 and aids in understanding scientific evidence.

 "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19"

Harvard University partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute to launch a COVID-19 resources toolbox for tribal nations. One featured resource is a children's book called "Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19." The book aims to educate children in tribal nations about COVID-19 and provides coping strategies.

“We’re Going to Be O.K.”

Two physicians wrote a children's book to inform and empower children who are living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted to children between the ages of 5 to 9 years old, the book authors were purposeful in representing communities of color in the illustrations. "We're Going to be O.K." follows the story of a young African American protagonist as he learns about the change COVID-19 will bring to his life and how to cope with grief and stress. The book is available for free download.

 

“From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19"

The United Nations (UN) released a book called "From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19" which incorporates the direct perspectives of children from around the world. The book shares children's experiences on how their communities are taking care of each other and keeping vulnerable family members safe. The book aims to help children overcome the uncertainties of the pandemic by being creative, staying positive, spreading kindness, and taking precautions to stay healthy.

 

Grover from Sesame Street on Coping During COVID-19

Grover from Sesame Street joined TV news hosts in talking directly to children about the importance of wearing masks, how to stay connected with friends, and how to cope with negative emotions related to the pandemic. An audio version with a transcript of the conversation can be found here.

These stories are part of the FEMA Best Practice initiative, which focuses on compiling the best practices and lessons learned from communities fighting COVID-19.  To see more stories like this, visit the Best Practices page. For more information on how to help during COVID-19, visit FEMA’s website for information on donations and volunteering.