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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

One Year Later: HHS Remains Committed

It’s been a year since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, devastating communities along the East Coast. Today, many impacted communities continue to rebuild and work towards recovery. At HHS, we recognize that recovering from disasters can take years, so we remain committed to serving these communities just as we did during the initial response to the storm.

As Hurricane Sandy neared, HHS staff prepared to deploy. The readiness of staff allowed teams to be on the ground within hours of states requesting assistance. Under the National Disaster Recovery Framework, the HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) served as the lead coordinating agency for health and social services and deployed field coordinators immediately hard hit areas in New York and New Jersey to help guide recovery efforts during the initial response and bring to federal technical assistance and other resources to bear.

In the aftermath of Sandy, ASPR supported a door-to-door mission for people who had been trapped in their high-rise apartments for weeks without electricity and ran a mobile vet clinic in the hardest hit areas to provide veterinary care.

HHS supported multi-agency task forces to focus on the needs of children and families, on environmental health, and on other issues in Sandy recovery. In New Jersey, for example, ASPR worked with experts from state agencies for health and human services to make connections between the residents served, the services provided, and the funding available. These efforts led agencies to identify partnership initiatives that could be addressed with funding from the HHS Social Services Block Grant.

ACF led the Immediate Federal Disaster Case Management Program in New Jersey and at the time of the transition to the State Grant Program, had provided disaster case management services to support 4,186 New Jersey Sandy survivor households.  ACF also awarded $7.5 million in Sandy Supplemental funding for the repair of Head Start centers; $475 million through the Social Services Block Grant; and approximately $2 million to support family violence prevention and services in affected communities. 

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) awarded $75,000 to the New Jersey State Unit on Aging, and $13,976 to the Connecticut State Unit on Aging for “GAP” funding to reimburse the state for home delivered meals to homebound seniors after Sandy struck. ACL also worked with specific Area Agencies on Aging to coordinate relocation efforts by FEMA and displaced workers and remain actively engaged in the recovery process.

NIH has made $147 million available to NIH-supported research to restoring their research and facilities from Sandy damage. At the end of September 2013, NIH had issued more than $23 million to assist in restoring affected biomedical research programs, with the remainder being awarded in FY 2014.

NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) created a Mold Remediation Guidance Document, PowerPoint presentation, and a pocket guide booklet. All these efforts were made possible through the unprecedented coordination of federal, state, and local entities.

Over the next few years, HHS will continue to provide assistance to impacted communities. ASPR has launched an innovation program to build products that challenge industry standards. During Sandy, power outages showed just how being without electricity threaten the lives of otherwise stable people who normally didn’t require doctors, but just a place to plug in their durable medical equipment. These survivors became patients again, and often became separated from their families while seeking help in emergency departments or medical shelters -- simply because the equipment batteries ran low.  Through the innovation fellow program and the new recently launched idea challenge, ASPR hopes to source ideas from thinkers across the country.

ASPR is also breaking new ground by seeding research that will help develop a scientific basis for recovery best practices. Communities face a host of decisions about rebuilding, yet there’s not always robust enough data about what works. ASPR will fund the department’s first research grants to support long-term recovery and resilience in the impacted communities. The nine two-year grants total more than $5 million and ASPR is making $3.6 million available to support additional research requirements and resources. CDC also is funding research activities to support public health recovery in impacted areas.

ASPR’s recovery staff is working with FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the rebuilding, redesign, redevelopment and remediation of the healthcare infrastructure  to expand the scope of traditional disaster relief and recovery funding beyond just hospitals (which own their buildings) to include private providers, dialysis centers, and other healthcare facilities. Many of them lease mixed use commercial buildings which aren’t covered by the Stafford Act.

Also, working with Nassau County and FEMA on mitigation for to rebuild to in a way that supports elderly populations and on an tracking system in New York for nursing homes and long-term care facilities that have to evacuate residents. Check out our blog on these unique efforts!

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  • This page last reviewed: April 27, 2017