Resiliency: Recovery & Return Explored

By Jonathan McFarlane-Weinstein, 2020-2021 Thrive Livability Impact Fund Fellow

Local municipalities, businesses, and academicians frequently use the word resiliency in offering a glimpse of a new way of life, one spared from the calamities of an unchecked global environment. Even well-established U.S. entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have structured their National Preparedness Goal, Five Mission Areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery) to their 32 Core Capabilities around the principle of Resiliency in helping to achieve complex missions (FEMA, n.d.). The word, although frequently used in public and educational circles has been around for centuries, impacting the development of civilizations. Merriam-Webster, defines Resiliency as the ability of an entity to recover from and return to its original shape following a disruption (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). This framework of maintaining a habitual response to threats is a concept in which public leaders in Orange County, FL are working diligently to emulate through publicly funded programs, education initiatives, to co-ops with business leaders. This article will offer a glimpse into the world of Resiliency and its workings within Orange County, FL as public officials strive to increase the quality of life for all residents.

To begin the exploration into Orange County’s Resiliency measures, let’s begin by examining the county’s poverty rates in relation to other counties and Florida as a whole. As of 2019, approximately 15.6% percent of Orange County’s population lives in poverty, ranking the municipality 31st out of 67th throughout the state, and is higher than Florida’s average of 13.6% (index mundi, 2019). These numbers are also examined in totality when examining the conglomerate of the municipality’s economic base which is highly dependent on tourism. The most common industries in Orange County are Accommodation & Food Services and Retail Trade, with the county consistently outpacing other municipalities in Arts, Entertainment & Recreation by 2.94% and Accommodation & Food Services by 1.61% (Data USA, 2019). Examining wage rates for the county’s population also offers a glimpse into the current economic situation of the region. As of 2019, the average income for 1 adult in Orange County, FL is $28,064 whereas the average household income was $58,254 (Data Commons, 2019). The pre-mentioned economic data for Orange County helped to depict a picture of the region’s economic health which is vital for understanding Resiliency measures that are put in place to assist those in need.

Some programs offered by Orange County’s municipal government include: The Energy Bill Assistance Program, SELF Home-Improvement Financing Program, and the Senior Climate-Efficiency Program (SCEP). Two such popular programs are the Energy Bill Assistance Program (funding for electricity payments dependent on the number of individuals in the household and the household’s total income level) and the Senior Climate-Efficiency Program (SCEP) (offering replacements/upgrades of air-conditioners to low-income residents over the age of 60) (Orange County Government, Florida, 2021). These programs, in which most are government-funded include methods of refinancing, low-cost loans, or rebates, which have been instrumental in helping those who are most vulnerable in achieving a higher quality of life.