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Advancing disaster relief for marginalized communities and families

Industry updates, solutions to improving social equity following disasters and crises 

Even the most devastating disasters have ways of uniting communities, forcing new perspectives on caring for our neighbors, rebuilding businesses, schools and churches, and ensuring that others are not going without.  

Federal, state and local relief programs provide the essential framework for disaster recovery, ensuring funds, food and housing are delivered to those who need it most. The people who lead these organizations are at the forefront of ensuring funds and other aid are delivered swiftly. 

Outdated technology and sluggish procedures, however, often prolong the wait for relief payments, leaving crisis survivors waiting days or even weeks without money for food, housing, medicine and supplies. This delay often disproportionately affects marginalized communities, rural areas, people of color and those with lower incomes. 

These shortfalls can exacerbate socioeconomic disparity. One study has revealed that in communities heavily impacted by natural disasters, White families experienced a notable increase in wealth through generous reinvestment. In contrast, minority families witnessed a lesser growth in wealth or even a decline. Increasingly, agencies are taking a stand to ensure relief and response is both fair and equitable.  

Following a crisis, agencies may struggle to identify affected survivors, securely distribute financial aid, and safeguard against fraud or mismanagement of funds. For displaced victims, traditional mail-based paper check systems pose challenges in accessing funds, particularly for those without functioning mail services.  

For relief agencies, these key challenges are impacting equitable disaster relief: 

  • Slow payments to vulnerable populations  
  • Unsecure processes and fraud risks  
  • Complicated procedures, payment delivery challenges, and status tracking  
  • Inability to provide timely communication with crisis survivors  
  • Burdensome administrative costs associated with issuing payments 

Agencies, experts seek equitable disaster relief 

In response to these needs, Conduent recently partnered with the International Association of Emergency Managers to facilitate discussion on strategies for enhancing disaster recovery initiatives and identify how agencies can better deliver assistance to all affected communities, prioritizing equitable distribution, especially to underserved and low-income populations. 

The panel provided an industry update of near-future governmental initiatives intended to improve disaster response. Among the key takeaways:  

  1. FEMA has announced a multi-level initiative to expand equity efforts, including streamlining and simplifying eligibility verification processes to assist applicants. The plan calls for improving needs assistance, expanding eligibility to help underinsured people, and streamlining processes for temporary housing assistance applications.  
  2. Many state and local governments, grappling with historic increases in the number of disasters, are considering creating new non-federal recovery programs designed to expedite assistance to survivors, particularly in low-income communities. According to the NEMA 2022 Bi-Annual Report, 29 states have created their own state-funded assistance programs to assist those citizens and businesses impacted by a disaster. Of these: 
    • 23 have public assistance programs 
    • Nine have individual assistance programs 
    • Six offer unmet needs programs 
    • 12 offer other disaster assistance programs 
    • Three states – Maine, North Carolina and Wisconsin –  have an economic/business recovery program 

Since 2022, even more states are exploring options for self-funding individual assistance to disaster survivors. 

Conduent’s teams and experts will continue to keep boots on the ground, and work with nongovernmental organizations as well as federal, state and local governments as social equity assessments continue to be evaluated and addressed.  

Modernizing, accelerating and protecting payments for constituents in need 

Conduent’s Rapid Assistance Solution provides agencies with the ability to distribute relief funds swiftly and securely to constituents in need, driven by immediate payments, ACH and debit card options for unbanked and underbanked populations. Agencies can dispatch aid to those impacted by natural disasters and other crises in a matter of minutes, rather than in days or weeks. Similarly, our solution prevents fraud through secure payments, best-in-class measures to verify identities, protect against fraud, and reduce administrative costs incurred through paper-based mailing processes, checks and debit card program support. 

Expediting disaster support to historically marginalized communities is a matter of urgency and equity. By recognizing and addressing these challenges head-on, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and resilient response to crises. Together, we can build a future where disaster response is not only rapid but also equitable, leaving no one behind. 

Learn more about Conduent Rapid Assistance Solution

Ready to explore the challenges faced by agencies following a crisis, and learn practical steps for agencies seeking to better serve constituents? Download our eBook, pathways to fast and secure digital relief payments after natural disasters and other crises

About the Author

Daphne leads product management for Digital Payments within Conduent’s Government Payments business team, directing efforts to offer innovative digital capabilities to new and existing government clients. Her most recent accomplishments include the creation of Conduent’s Rapid Assistance Solution, a suite of services specifically designed to help government agencies and non-government organizations disburse relief funds to impacted citizens in a safe, secure and immediate manner. Prior to her Digital Payments experience, Daphne served more than 20 years in Conduent’s Child Support Services organization focusing on solutions to collect and disburse child support funds to families and children efficiently and securely.

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