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Financial Capability is Critical for Disaster Recovery

April 15, 2021 10:30 AM
By: Richard Vague, Secretary, PA Department of Banking and Securities; David (Randy) Padfield, Director, PA Emergency Management Agency; Stacy Garrity, PA State Treasurer

Piggy bank with umbrella in the rain

​At the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), we are responsible for coordinating preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation programs and activities with counties, state agencies, and other stakeholders. The side of our operation that citizens are probably most familiar with is the response phase, when the coordination of direct life-saving activities during natural or human-caused disasters and emergencies is critical. However, most of our day-to-day work as an agency centers around the recovery and mitigation phases of emergency management.

The recovery phase focuses on the support of disaster survivors. Even with federal recovery programs that may be available as well as insurance, there are gaps in being able to adequately support disaster survivors at the level needed.  As an example, many communities faced flooding damage as a result of Tropical Storm Isaias last summer. That storm alone affected hundreds of buildings throughout various counties and caused several millions of dollars in damage. Despite the devastating loss many families faced, Pennsylvania was not approved for a FEMA Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance, leaving Pennsylvania families with the daunting task of recovering on their own.

If not prepared, the impact can be devastating. While there are other programs available to assist such as Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs), there are still significant gaps in funding the recovery process, which adversely impact the disaster survivor’s ability to recover from the impacts of an incident in a timely manner. 

Financial Capability and Recovery

April is Financial Capability Month. This year, the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Pennsylvania’s economy has highlighted an additional concern of families’ ability to save – and recover – should an emergency occur.

Regardless of one’s financial situation, there is something that everyone can – and should – do.

Here are three things you can do now:

1. Start a financial first aid kit.

Just like a medical first aid kit that is designed to be available to attend to unplanned emergencies, a financial first aid kit can help you have what you need – when you need it – in one place. A financial first aid kit may sound daunting, but all it takes is a few simple steps to get you started.

The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK), a joint publication from Operation Hope and FEMA can help you prepare now. Use the EFFAK to identify your important documents, medical records, and household contracts.

Completing the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit gives you the confidence to know all your records are stored in one place if an emergency happens.

2. Mark your calendar and participate in our webinar and join the discussion.

Join the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, Emergency Management Agency and Department of Treasury for a conversation about how to put together your own Financial First Aid Kit.

3. Keep learning.

Subscribe to the Ready PA Monthly preparedness newsletter and you'll receive timely tips and tools that can help you and your family become better prepared.

Below are valuable tools and resources available.

Department of Banking and Securities Resources

DoBS staff work with state and local government agencies, service providers, community and trade organizations, the General Assembly, the military community, schools, and other partners to help Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth become well-informed about the financial marketplace.

Learn more about the free, non-commercial programs and presentations available or contact us to request a program tailored to your specific needs.

Visit the department's calendar of events to find an event near you. Consumers and community groups can call 1-800-PA-BANKS or email informed@pa.gov for more information. To learn more about the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, follow the department on Twitter and Facebook.

PA Treasury Resources

Visit patreasury.gov to learn about these programs and more.

The Pennsylvania Treasury Department has several savings programs designed to help families towards their savings goals.

Families can plan and save for education with the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program. Two plans offer generous tax benefits and the ability to contribute via payroll deduction.

Keystone Scholars is a program that invests $100 for babies born or adopted starting in 2019 to jumpstart education savings. A great program for anyone who may be starting or growing a family.

The PA ABLE Savings Program is a tax-advantaged savings and investment account which helps people with disabilities save while maintaining government benefits.


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