In our current media environment where huge disasters totaling more than $1 billion in damages grab headlines and public attention, smaller disasters that are just as devastating to the lives of those who are affected sometimes get far less attention.

During a Feb. 18 webinar, Nancy Beers, program officer for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund, told the story of a couple who had lost everything in a surprise flash flood.

“Fifteen months later, they had moved three times and didn’t know anything more about how they would [permanently] recover than they did the day after the flood,” Beers said.Screenshot 2015-03-04 19.09.16

Low-attention disasters, often occurring in small, rural communities, and without a FEMA IA declaration, adversely affect vulnerable populations – for months or even years after they occur. The Midwest Early Recovery Fund is designed to develop long-term recovery resources for local agencies and help local communities develop partnerships with national or state disaster organizations to boost the resiliency of communities ahead of another disaster. It is exclusively focused on disasters in a 10-state Midwest region (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota). Beers said she has not determined yet an exact number of grants, but that she anticipated 30-50 grants, averaging about $25,000 each, will be awarded from the fund during the two years. Grants will be made to community non-profits and state and national organizations offering local support, training and outreach. In addition, Beers said she hopes to establish lasting partnerships within the 10-state area and collect disaster data to aid in future work in the region.

One particular highlight to this fund, Beers said, was it’s streamlined grant process, which places the burden on the funder to qualify the applicant and takes away many typical administrative burdens from grantees. This process was created in order to place funds into the hands of those doing the work as quickly as possible.

CDP Vice President, Regine Webster, said that this fund is a pilot program. CDP hopes to use lessons learned from this regional fund to explore options for similar programs in areas around the United States.

“Just looking at the geographic regions of the U.S. – the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast, the Gulf Coast – each area faces a unique set of disaster risks,” Webster said.

If you’d like to learn more about the Midwest Early Recovery Fund, email nancy.beers@disasterphilanthropy.org.

You can also view the webinar slides here and listen to an audio recording below.