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For Small Communities, Harvey’s Effects Haunt the Recovery

When a natural disaster stops being national news, small communities are the ones who suffer the most.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many businesses still haven’t fully recovered. Based on the stories coming out of Corpus Christ, Port Aransas, Rockport, and other Gulf Coast towns, homeowners and businesses are still having trouble finding the resources they need to rebuild to pre-Harvey levels. The loss of homes and commercial buildings are interconnected—when residents are forced to leave the area, businesses are forced to close up shop.

Over Half of Businesses Close After Natural Disasters

The Department of Labor reports that over 40 percent of businesses that close during a natural disaster never reopen. Even worse, 1 in 4 of the remaining businesses close within two years. Taken together, by next year Hurricane Harvey’s total destruction could result in 65 percent of businesses permanently closed.

Current economic models for Port Aransas project a recovery process that would have the county reaching pre-Harvey levels of output/sales by 2019 at the earliest…and 2026 at the latest. The region’s economic “bounce-back” hinges on one thing: how quickly businesses get access to resources for rebuilding, restocking, hiring, and training new staff.

Delays Double the Length of Recovery

If the Harvey recovery takes 4 years instead of 1 year, the output lost would double. If the recovery takes 10 years, it would double again. Speed of relief is not just convenient—it’s vital to the long-term survival of these communities. When businesses (especially tourism-based businesses, which Port Aransas relies on) close for good, it deprives the surrounding city of income, jobs, and opportunity. When that happens en masse? The effects could be disastrous...and permanent.

Cities like Port Aransas could be unrecognizable soon. Whatever the rest of Texas can do to secure faster, larger financial relief for our Gulf Coast cities, we need to do it—and fast.