SBA uncertain of staff level for disaster response

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The Small Business Administration will likely face significant staffing challenges in the event of another disaster like the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes because it cannot properly determine how much of its workforce would be available to respond, says the agency's inspector general.

In a Jan. 25 report (.pdf) auditors say SBA does not know if it "could activate the human capital necessary to respond to a disaster" among its workforce because it lacks a formal process to maintain an accurate count of its reserve workforce and their availability in the event of an emergency.

The agency would need to hire and train at least 2,400 new workers to reach the needed total of 4,700 responders, the IG estimates, but warns this number may not be accurate.

The agency had to grow its staff from 800 to 4,300 disaster loan staff during the Gulf Coast hurricanes, and training problems caused hundreds of thousands of loans not to be disbursed within established timelines, says the report.

The report says SBA would likely see similar training and staffing issues in meeting the new goal of 4,700 responders.

In response report recommendations, SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance has implemented a process to identify available staff and has crafted a written procedure that defines the process for determining this availability. The agency is also "presently executing a plan that incorporates a detailed improvement plan with responsibilities and due dates," says the report.

Auditors also say recommendations from disaster modeling used by SBA, which helped the IG arrive at the 2,400 new hire statistic, should be incorporated into future actions by SBA and that the implementation of recommendations should also be tracked.

For more:
- download the report, 13-10 (.pdf)

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