As an example of ACF activities, Thomas highlighted the role of ACF in support of the health and social service RSF core mission area of referral to social services/disaster case management. ACF implements coordinated systems for rapid referral to appropriate social services, and strategic leveraging of federal service programs to mitigate social disruption and transition people back to self-sufficiency. ACF also facilitates the Federal Disaster Case Management program to address unmet recovery needs.
Hurricane Sandy and the NDRF
Hurricane Sandy was the first large-scale event that prompted NDRF implementation, Thomas said. The storm impacted 5 of the 10 ACF regional offices. About 70 staff members were deployed during the response phase, logging more than 16,000 staff hours. Three disaster case management assessments were conducted, which indicated that 86 Head Start centers and 697 child care centers were closed across Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
In the transition from response to the recovery phase, ACF provides recovery-related technical assistance for HHS and ACF programs by encouraging, facilitating, and supporting children’s task forces; providing support from OCC and OHS for early childhood center re-openings; providing early childhood programs and children’s issues subject matter expert teams; and providing linkages to human services networks. In addition, ACF provides financial recovery assistance through Social Services Block Grants, Head Start funding, and Family Violence Prevention Grants. Thomas noted that ACF provided $474 million in funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery, $2 million of which will go toward family violence prevention. An additional $95 million in recovery aid will be available for Head Start centers.
In closing, Thomas stressed that the health and human services pieces of HHS need to work in tandem, educating each other about their respective disciples, and communicating better about available tools and resources. Unlike a disaster event, recovery is a process and may take a very long time. Restoration of health and social services systems following a disaster requires coordination, communication, and collaboration among various levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and impacted communities. Situations such as Hurricane Sandy provide teachable moments, and Thomas reiterated the