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    Translating the complexity of disaster response with local leaders
    (Frontiers in Communication, 2023-03-21) Wowk, Kateryna; Adams, Margaret; Martinez, Emily
    Disaster resilience involves a complex web of processes, policies, regulatory requirements, and data that is di cult—if not impossible—to fully comprehend, even by seasoned experts. Yet resilience is not owned by “experts”—it is owned by local communities. Local leaders must be empowered to understand and trained to skillfully navigate complex systems to strengthen and continually build their resilience. Similarly, though billions of dollars in federal disaster recovery and mitigation funds are available to help local communities strengthen their resilience, additional work is needed to communicate, understand, assess, and address vulnerabilities at the local level, and particularly in small towns and in underserved communities, by harnessing local knowledge and data. In this article we present a framework developed to guide locally-owned resilience in Texas following Hurricane Harvey. The case study discusses methodologies to enhance the granularity of existing tools that assess resilience and social vulnerability by focusing on the local context for each, while building institutional to individual leadership needed to build disaster resilience over the longer-term. In particular, we discuss approaches being advanced by the Regional Resilience Partnership, which was formed to strengthen capacity for resilience in the 11 county Coastal Bend region, where Harvey first made landfall.
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    COVID-19 Small Business Impacts in the Texas Coastal Bend: A Hyperlocal Approach for Small Towns & Rural Communities
    (Small Business Institute Journal, 2022-07-05) McClure, Maxwell; Wowk, Kateryna
    Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused mass economic distress across communities. Historically, rural areas have more difficulty recovering from economic crises, though the severity of impacts may go uncaptured as these areas also tend to have lower response rates to broader surveys. This study was conducted in the South Texas Coastal Bend to better understand the economic impacts of COVID-19 on local businesses with a methodology that can be replicated in future observations. Results show that by late Summer 2020, 28 percent of small business owners reported losing over half of their revenue. However, 65 percent of businesses reported no reductions in staff, 9 percent hired new employees, and over three-quarters of businesses surveyed did not anticipate permanent workforce reductions. Top concerns about reopening included socially distancing employees and customers, providing face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensuring sanitation supplies stay stocked. These results show initial resilience of a rural region but also raise important questions regarding those most impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic; understanding the long-term impacts will prove to be challenging but essential to ensuring the economic stability of small towns and rural communities.