In the days after the devastating flood of October 2015, Richland County Council gave one main directive to be the focus of the County’s flood recovery process: Ensure no resident drops through the cracks.
Richland County employees have been carrying out that directive successfully and in such a way that has garnered national praise and respect for the County’s flood recovery program. Several agencies from across the country, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), have applauded Richland County for its transparent, community-involved recovery program.
“The way Richland County handled needs assessments, public outreach, (volunteer) collaboration and recovery concept of operations development sets new standards of excellence in recovery operations,” said Jonathan Burgiel of Tetra Tech, Inc., a consulting firm with significant disaster response and recovery expertise. “Other jurisdictions … have looked to Richland County’s recovery work as a model for best practices.”
As the flood response period ended and the flood recovery period began, the County hired Tetra Tech to guide its staff through components of the flood recovery process and named Mike King, of Richland County Emergency Services, the County’s Disaster Recovery Manager. One of King’s first major actions as Disaster Recovery Manager was facilitating the development of a Recovery Plan with a Recovery Concept of Operations to help the County focus on reaching the desired recovery end-state.
Richland County Council then formed a Blue Ribbon Committee to provide recovery-related recommendations and to act as a voice for the communities affected most by the flood. The Blue Ribbon Committee is composed of local leaders representing disadvantaged communities, representatives from environmental groups and faith-based and volunteer organizations, elected officials from local jurisdictions, and representatives from state and federal agencies.
"I’m constantly impressed how involved and helpful members of the Richland County team have been during the Midland’s storm recovery,” said Michela Schildts of SBP, a national disaster relief organization.
Richland County also established the Disaster Recovery Working Group, composed of key County staff and stakeholders from private entities, to provide recommendations to the Blue Ribbon Committee on the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) – the two major sources sought by the County for flood recovery funding.
When HUD approved Richland County’s Action Plan for receiving CDBG-DR funding, the agency specifically commended the County on the strength of its documentation of storm-related unmet needs, leading to more than $23.5 million in federal money being awarded to help low- to moderate-income residents in Richland County recovery from the flood.
More than 20 community meetings have been held in neighborhoods across the County since the disastrous flood, with each meeting providing important recovery information and resources to residents. A new series of public outreach meetings will be held at the beginning of May with these meetings planned to inform communities about the ways the $23.5 million CDBG-DR grant can be spent to help people and businesses who still have unmet needs.
“The County has been a critical partner with United Way and the long-term flood recovery process,” said Jennifer Moore, of United Way of the Midlands. “The County has demonstrated a deep commitment to its residents with outreach and a transparent process in allocating disaster recovery federal funding streams.”
For more information about Richland County’s flood recovery process, including the dates and times of next month’s public outreach meetings, visit www.rcgov.us/floodrecovery.