What is it about?

We describe the actions and in-actions of U.S. local governments with the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This natural biological disaster exposed unequal government service provision and programming. Many local governments pivoted quickly and effectively in response to inequities, but others did not or could not. We then analyze data from a national survey of local governments about preparing for natural weather-related disasters to determine what influences local capability to respond when cataclysmic events happen. We find that small, poor localities cannot respond well and this allows inequities to grow following disaster.

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Why is it important?

We live in disastrous times. Disasters of all sorts happen daily and are no longer unique and periodic events that allow lots of time to recover. Often, multiple disasters (natural weather-related, natural biological, manmade, and accidental) are occuring concurrently and/or consecutively. Local governments are the "boots on the ground" both for public service delivery and programming and for response and recovery following disaster. Our research presents strategies local governments can take to be prepared for and resilient given ubiquitous crises.


This article was exciting to write with my co-authors as we were working "in real time" to capture local government responses to the pandemic as it was unfolding. It necessitated that we "pivot" like many localities in scouring data provided in a multitude of formats and on different platforms (traditional scholarship, government websites and live stream meetings, podcasts, webinars, conference papers, YouTube videos, etc.) to provide the most comprehensive examination possible of local disaster response. In the end, I hope that people gain strong appreciation for, even awe, of local governments in the United States. Many responded exceptionally well when battling the effects of COVID-19, often without help from and/or before any assistance forthcoming from the states or the federal government.

Katherine Willoughby
University of Georgia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Disaster Resiliency of U.S. Local Governments: Insights to Strengthen Local Response and Recovery from the COVID ‐19 Pandemic, Public Administration Review, June 2020, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/puar.13249.
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