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Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans lost their jobs, fell behind on rent, and faced possible eviction. Many people who had never needed assistance before suddenly did.

John Travis Marshall is an associate professor at Georgia State University College of Law.

He says the pandemic forced state and local agencies to grapple with the shocking amount of need that can arise when any sort of disaster shuts down businesses and leaves people jobless — even for a short time.

They’re beginning to collect data because of the pandemic about the vulnerable populations with respect to housing … and understand what the potential need is for a climate-related disaster, another pandemic, God forbid,” he says.

He says COVID-19 has also highlighted flaws in the systems that provide aid and barriers that prevent people from applying for help.

“So we know that we’ve got a problem with delivering basic services, not just to the communities that have traditionally and historically been in need, but actually to a substantially larger group of people,” Marshall says.

So communities have received an unwanted crash-course in disaster response, and Marshall hopes it gives them data and motivation to better prepare for future crises — including those caused by a warming climate.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media