The Inadequacy of Government Aid: A Case Study of Long Beach after Sandy

For my final research paper, the outcome of all of this work, I looked at government response as opposed to community response to establish whether there was some sort of correlation between the two.  I hypothesized that, by looking at community response, one could understand where the government fell short or needs to increase aid. In the end, I found that the effort for recovery in Long Beach has been a joint one, between the community and the government, one in which successful recovery is not possible without both parties. While this functioned in Long Beach, it only did so because of very specific conditions that exist within the community (in terms of resources and capital).  Lacking these conditions, a very likely possibility in any other community, recovery would be significantly hindered or impossible.  Through my findings on Long Beach, I have identified areas in which the government fell short in terms of recovery in suggestion that governmental efforts are reexamined and refocused to address these areas of concern. 

In the first section of my paper I take a look look at the aid provided by the government at all levels (national, state, and local).  The bulk of my information comes from one of two major relief sources, either H.R 152 (Sandy Relief Act), or the local Long Beach government website.  As there is a large bulk of information contained in these sources, I will ignore those pieces of aid that I cannot directly connect to Long Beach.  Further I will divide the aid legislation provided by the national government in terms of intent of effect: relief, recovery, and reform.  I define relief as those measures taken to help Long Beach residents immediately after the storm, recovery as those pieces of legislation dealing with rebuilding, and reform as measures designed to prevent another such disaster in Long Beach.  I will also include a section for any legislation that cannot be divided into one of the three categories.

The next section looks into the focus of the community by analyzing the information on Facebook.  By looking at the percentages of the topics in conjunction with the breakdown of codes, I found that the Facebook focused primarily on aid and donations, but not the aid of the government.  Looking further into specific posts, I identified two major trends in terms of the goal of aid provided by the community. 

The first is labor for private individuals.  While the government did provide monetary aid for individuals (originally 75% of the cost of damage as assessed by FEMA, this percentage has recently been raised to 90%) it does not contribute to aid in the form of labor, as such, much of the posts on Facebook have to do with mobilizing community members to help other community members in the deconstruction and reconstruction of their homes. 

The second focus of the Facebook group that is troubling is the efforts of community members to finish tasks of the government.  Most notably, are the efforts of the “Bucket Brigade”, a group of individuals who posted frequently in the Facebook group to organize volunteers to help in efforts to clean debris and trash from the beach.  A job the government allocated for in Title II of H.R. 152 where appropriations are made “to rehab, repair, and construct corps projects for long-term sustainability of the costal ecosystem and communities”, something that cleaning the shore would undoubtedly fall under as it is “costal” and its cleanliness obviously effects “ecosystem{s} and communities” as well as promotes “sustainability” in both the long and short term.  Furthermore, this was a supplemental appropriation, meaning that the money was given for a work that was theoretically already in process; however, both the fact that the residents of Long Beach had to step in indicates that efforts were either entirely unsatisfactory or so slow-moving that they were not noticed by residents or would not be completed for an intolerable amount of time.  Another example of community finishing government tasks is in terms of debris removal. On the longbeach.gov site there was a community bulletin that said that the local government was working hard in sanitation issues, including the removal of debris from the streets.  The final pass for debris, however, was to be made on December 4th, after which point the removal became the responsibility of owners.  This was absolutely not sufficient.  After this deadline houses were still being gutted (some people were actually just returning to Long Beach).  Previously the remains of houses were dragged to the street for the city to be picked up, but this was no longer an option.  When a fellow researcher for this project visited Long Beach in March she saw the results of this, street corners and entire lots piled full of trash, as well as some trash piles at the Beach.  If the City refuses to pick up these debris, either the piles will stay or private individuals will have to spend time and money to get the debris removed, despite the fact that this duty was originally distinguished as a duty of the city. 

In sum, by looking at the focus of the Long Beach Hurricane Information Facebook page, I was able to identify a disconnect between the respective focus of government and the community.  By examining this disconnect more closely, I was able to find areas where the government could improve in aiding efforts in terms of disaster.  First, the government could look into providing not only monetary aid to homeowners, but also aid in the form of labor.  Second, the government should try to do a more thorough job in following up on the aid it already claims to provide; perhaps by revisiting the job in question several times after its completion to ensure that it stays completed as other tasks are completed.  Though in Long Beach, the shortcomings of government effort were not so significant as to completely halt recovery (though they could have conceivably hindered it), this is only because of specific workings of the community that allowed citizens to fill in those areas of aid where the government fell short. But, not every community will be as fortunate as Long Beach in this. As such, government aid should be reevaluated and expanded to address those areas that the citizens of Long Beach demonstrated in their intervening as lacking and incomplete.

___Work Cited____

Ackerman, Justin. “Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Contains Billions in Wasteful Spending.” Policymic 10 12 2012, n. pag. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.

 Editorial Staff, . “Pork-laden relief bill par for course.” U-T San Diego 03 01 2013, n. pag. Web.8 Feb. 2013.

Kaye, Kemberlee. “Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill: All Pork – Little Relief.” FreedomWorks [Washington DC] 19 12 2012, n. pag. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.

 Lipton, Eric. “Distribution of Billions in Aid to Storm Victims Will Test FEMA.” New York Times 30 10 2012, n. pag. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

 LoGiurato, Brett. “The House Has Passed More Than $50 Billion in Sandy Aid, Despite Heavy Republican Opposition.” Business Insider. n. page. Print.

 New York. Government. News in Our City. Web. <http://www.longbeachny.gov/>.

 Patten , Debbi. “Sandy Relief Bill Had Pork.” Star Democrat2 9 2013, n. pag. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Schumer, Charles. United States. Senate. Critical Threshold. Web. <http://www.schumer.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=341609&&gt;.

 United States. White House. Web. <http://search.whitehouse.gov/search?affiliate=wh&query=sandy&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&submit=Search&form_id=usasearch_bo&xgt;.

 

United States Government. Department of Veterans Affairs.VA NY Harbor Healthcare System. 2013. Web.

 

“Water, Sewers Coming Back In Long Beach; LIRR Bus Service Also Available.” CBS New York 11 11 2012, n. pag. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

 

 

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monica byrne

writer . playwright . artist . activist . traveler

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