A non-traditional approach to disaster recovery through economic resilience

Traditionally, the recovery models after a disaster are focused on infrastructure, restoration and other elements of housing. However, economic resilience is often overlooked after a natural or man-made catastrophe. According to EDA, “economic resilience becomes inclusive of three primary attributes: the ability to recover quickly from a shock, the ability to withstand a shock, and the ability to avoid the shock altogether.”

After Hurricane María, Foundation for Puerto Rico, through rescue missions, quickly discovered small businesses were in dire need of immediate support. Thanks to the outpouring support from donors, we were able to launch the Small Business Support Program (SBSP) to help existing small business owners remain open, retain employees and optimize operations through cash grants, and technical assistance in partnership with Centro para Emprendedores.

Through the program, we assisted more than 200 small businesses, by providing more than $500K in financial grants and more than 800 hours of mentoring so they could continue operating in the aftermath. According to FEMA, between 40 to 60% of small business close a year after a natural disaster. However, under the SBSP, 89% of the assisted small business remained open before the pandemic.

Recognizing the importance of immediate relief and technical assistance after a disaster, we relaunched the program to support the southern small businesses affected by the earthquakes in January 2020. A total of $80K in cash grants was distributed between 22 small businesses in Guánica and Ponce for them to reopen. They received more than 120 hours of training and technical assistance on how to prepare for catastrophic events.

Through the program, economic resilience takes a center stage in which we provide small businesses the necessary tools to prepare and quickly recover from an emergency, as we work together to avoid the risks altogether.

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