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Empowering California: Governor's Office Partners with Merit and California Volunteers for Community Impact

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Merit helps power the California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign to deploy a network of volunteers and transform how Californians prepare for the next disaster.

California Volunteers, Office of the Governor recently announced the California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign (#CaliforniaForAll), which deploys a network of volunteers to transform Californians' preparation for disasters. Governor Gavin Newsom introduced the campaign on March 22, when he declared a state of emergency due to heightened wildfire threats. This initiative is part of his proposed $13.6 billion California for All budget resiliency plan. Merit plays a crucial role by providing a solution that allows volunteer response teams to efficiently access, track, organize, and store their diverse pre-disaster training, certifications, and real-time field data using their mobile phones or other connected devices during emergencies.

“Our people-centered approach will usher in a new era of emergency preparedness,” said Governor Newsom. “We are leveraging the power of volunteerism while ensuring preparedness support and information is not only limited to those who have been privileged enough to access, understand, and afford it.”

Activating Volunteer Emergency Response Teams

In collaboration, California Volunteers and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) are sharing $50 million directly into communities. This investment aims to broaden the reach of volunteer and service programs, enhancing emergency preparedness training and education to serve a greater number of communities better.

These initiatives encompass various programs, such as the Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), which follow a FEMA-recognized 20-hour emergency preparedness curriculum. Under the administration of California Volunteers, CERT programs will be expanded to enhance the training capabilities of Californians. Additionally, Listos, an 8-hour Spanish language curriculum, will be broadened to include additional languages and cover new regions. As part of existing AmeriCorps programs, the campaign establishes new disaster teams to offer communities expertise and support during disasters.

“California is taking advantage of “blue sky days” to prepare our communities,” said Karen Baker, California’s Chief Service Officer and lead of California Volunteers. “A California For All empowers those often on the sidelines to access the resources they need to keep themselves and their families safe. The worst of our reality spurred by growing threats of disaster brings out the best of who we are as Californians: Rising to serve. And, the governor’s strategy builds upon this truth.”

Once formally initiated following the FEMA curriculum, CERT programs often possess a deep understanding of the specific skills and training required in their community. Consequently, they exceed the basic education of their members by offering advanced training in areas such as Stop the Bleed, Traffic and Crowd Control, and Flooding Operations. However, these grassroots programs often lack a systematic approach to identifying and utilizing these capabilities in disaster situations when they are most critical.

Through the integration of Merit, California Volunteers will, for the first time, have a standardized overview of their volunteer capacity across the state and a consistent understanding of the specializations held by CERT volunteers. Moreover, in disaster scenarios where information and trust are paramount, Merit provides a secure, interoperable system for verifying each volunteer on-site. This enables groups and agencies to collaborate more effectively, even without prior interactions or collaborations.

The Origin of the Legislation and Budget

Signed into law on February 13, 2019, Assembly Bill 72 – Budget Act of 2018 allocates $30 million for California Volunteers to distribute and $20 million for Cal OES to distribute through local assistance grants. The first phase of the effort is a request for proposals (RFP) process that aims to select partners in the next two months and begin implementation by summer.

New Applications Mean Millions Recouped for States

In addition to serving as the primary platform for training and certification, Merit is collaborating with California and other disaster-prone states to establish itself as the official timekeeping platform of record. States are tasked with submitting their total volunteer hours to FEMA for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred during disasters. Unfortunately, traditional spreadsheet-based and analog records often suffer from inaccuracies or go unrecorded, resulting in states losing millions of dollars in potential reimbursements. For instance, the state of Florida estimated a loss of over $75 million in total funds due to inadequate record-keeping and time tracking for volunteer hours during Hurricane Irma, a disaster that caused more than $50 billion in damage to the state.

Giving Back to Help Promote Adoption & Ensure Success

Merit is the 2019 title sponsor of the National CERT Conference in San Diego from May 27-June.

Today we signed a MOU to usher in a partnership with @EarnMerits. This partnership will provide #CERT members with FREE cutting-edge #technology to track their engagements and preparedness trainings with one million Californians. #CaliforniaForAll #CERTstrong pic.twitter.com/va9AGUANyY

— California Volunteers (@CalVolunteers) May 31, 2019

Recently, the Governor’s Office for California endorsed and officially renamed the conference as the California For All CERT and Listos Preparedness Conference. This endorsement also brings in additional funding, contributing to the overall improvement of the conference.

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About California Volunteers
California Volunteers is the Governor’s team that harnesses the spirit of Californians to volunteer, serve, and prepare. The office addresses state and local challenges by investing in service solutions and leveraging public, private, and nonprofit resources. California Volunteers transforms small investments into major impacts through AmeriCorps, disaster volunteering and preparedness, and community partnerships. For more information, visit californiavolunteers.ca.gov.

About Merit
Merit lets everyone access, track, and organize their life’s achievements, giving them the confidence, autonomy, and foresight to pursue their life’s goals. Merit enables organizations to securely issue and manage digital merits in order to engage better, serve, and grow their member community. Merit offers organizations and individuals a way to leverage a single secure platform to verify their personal and professional qualifications versus relying on analog, siloed systems of paper certificates, ledgers, and plastic identification cards. Merit is based in Millbrae, CA, and was founded by Tomer Kagan and Jacob Orrin in 2016.

Chat with one of our experts today to learn more about how Merit empowers the emergency management lifecycle.

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