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The second to last panel to grace our stage was the Building Infrastructure, Maintaining Agriculture & Disaster Recovery Panel, featuring Michelle Corridon, Deputy Director, USDA Rural Development; Noemi Lujan-Perez, VP of Government and Media Relations, EcoDiversity; James K. Joseph, Regional Administrator, FEMA Region V; Sharron P.A. Levine, Director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA); and Desiree Patno, CEO & President, NAWRB. These professionals shared how their agencies respond to natural disasters and provide financial assistance to affected homeowners and business owners, while also letting attendees know about contracting opportunities and how they can be involved in developing trends in infrastructure.
After the panel gave their introductions, Joseph gave an informative overview of common misconceptions that people have about FEMA. For example, people tend to believe that the agency is a first responder when natural disasters occur and are the first to assist affected areas in recovery. FEMA will mobilize resources in time of major natural disasters, but the true first responders will be local service departments in state and nearby states before FEMA assists the area.
Also, he notes that FEMA only kickstarts recovery, but does not have the capacity to completely finance the recovery of homeowners and businesses who have suffered damages. In reality, the maximum grant amount that applicants can receive is $34,000, but the average homeowners will commonly be awarded $4,000 to $6,000. Homeowners will receive a greater payout from an insurance, which can amount to six-figures for their recovery needs. This is why it’s important to have more financial advisors to help homeowners be more financially resilient and more realtors to help renters become homeowners and assist homeowners in acquiring good insurance.
Joseph states that the most prominent job of FEMA is to “Help people prepare before, during and after a disaster.” To do this, FEMA facilitates the coordination of all federal agencies to the table to assist people during a natural disaster. As he articulates, what is key is what we do before a disaster to help American citizens be prepared.
Sharron P.A. Levine shared contracting opportunities at the FHFA, informing the audience that ll contractors need to be on the GSE schedule and approved by the agency to participate in contracting opportunities. For more information, please visit the FHFA website to register. Levine shares that top NAICS were for legal services, as the agency spent millions of dollars in law firms since they have recently worked heavily with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, but she expects that to decrease in the upcoming years. The top spend are legal services, software, hardware and facilities.
Michelle Corridon of USDA Rural Development also shared that her agency is looking for contractors. There are many procuring opportunities in many services and they are also encouraged to use diverse contractors, while the most common contracted service is consulting.
Noemi Lujan Perez, who works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife discusses her work with the agency, which focuses on creating a buffer between urban development and nature. She also shared that she was part of the PR agency team with State Farm in response to Hurricane Katrina (and U.S. Fish and Wildlife were also first responders). Many homeowners were denied coverage based on claims that damage was inflicted by other sources other than flooding. This, in turn, impacted response systems like FEMA and the insurance industries’ coverage of homes and homeownership.
Natural disaster bring opportunities for entrepreneurs and gives opportunity for redevelopment, especially green development. This is why Perez pressed to the audience that “Green is the space to go.” The country has aging infrastructure, and the U.S. is going to rebuild using green technologies. If you want to be involved in this growing trend of green construction and building make sure to get a LEED certification for your business.
Thank you to these representatives for providing invaluable information about contracting opportunities with their agencies, as well as pivotal information to help America’s homeowners prepare themselves against the threat of natural disasters and to be proactive about their financial future.