January 2, 2013

Setting Up the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

For some of us, the holiday season is when we join together and celebrate our blessings. But for the families whose homes or small businesses were damaged or those who lost loved ones during Hurricane Sandy, this season is a time of grief, confusion and uncertainty, as they work to rebuild their homes and their lives.

The urgency of helping these families and communities that were ravaged by the storm is why we’re moving quickly to set up the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.   On Friday, December 7, President Obama signed the executive order that established the Task Force. President Obama also asked Congress to immediately approve $60 billion in supplemental assistance to aid in storm recovery.

As Chair of the Task Force, I’m proud to announce that effective January 2, my Chief of Staff, Laurel Blatchford, will move into the role of Executive Director of the Task Force. With her intimate knowledge of the area as a longtime resident, and her unmatched awareness of the issues and the players involved, I can think of no better start for this commission and I’m excited to work alongside her in this new capacity. We will follow this with additional staff, who will work to achieve the Task Force’s five major responsibilities.

First, and most importantly, it will coordinate with all stakeholders to deliver cohesive, rebuilding strategies— creating a comprehensive regional plan within six months. We will gather and share the best practices of recovering communities, creating a vision for long-term rebuilding by State and local stakeholders—a vision that will be supported by more thoughtful planning and a focus on resilience and sustainability.

Second, it will reduce regulatory burdens and cut red tape.

Third, it will manage the flow of federal recovery funds and make sure that the resources the federal government provides are aligned with local priorities.

Fourth, we will monitor the progress and strengthen accountability measures. We know that at a moment like this, because Americans are anxious about the recovery, they have little patience for waste. The structure of the task force and the ability to monitor funds allow us to deliver this kind of accountability.

Finally, more than a checkbook, it will allow us to offer technical assistance and tools—providing critical support as those on the ground realize their vision for redevelopment and revitalization.  We will develop and track clear metrics to monitor and communicate progress, capture best practices and set standards for long-term disaster recovery.

This task force is not and cannot be simply federal oversight or mandate.  Rather, it must provide leadership and connections that actively support local visions. And with the expertise of virtually the entire cabinet represented, we are prepared to make those visions of this recovery a reality.

I look forward to sharing more information about the staffing and structure of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force in the coming weeks.

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