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The Four “S’s” of COVID-19 Recovery: Survival, Stabilization, Salvation and Stimulus

The Four “S’s” of COVID-19 Recovery: Survival, Stabilization, Salvation and Stimulus

The U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities said in a recent news release that 88% of cities surveyed expect a revenue shortfall this year because of the spread of COVID-19 and many of them expect to furlough employees. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a research paper on April 14, 2020 that illustrates that states will need significantly more relief to slow the emerging deep recession. The current estimate is that an additional $500 billion will be needed this year.

Thinking in terms of stages and timelines will be critical during and after the pandemic. My assumption is that many organizations, and the nation as a whole, will travel along a path of “S” words: starting with survival and moving toward stabilization, salvation and stimulus.

The Four “S’s” of Recovery

  • Survival

The initial stage of any historically unique crisis, like COVID-19, is one of shock and fear. It has been the time of this crisis where most of our organizations and societal functions have seen their strengths and weaknesses, and we have all realized that no enterprise is truly disaster-proof. 

Many states and cities had plans that they immediately executed. Staff scheduling and work from home arrangements became increasingly important to maintaining even minimal operations and keeping a skeleton crew, if possible and necessary, productive. Leaders faced the challenge of finding the right balance between safety, efficiency and effectiveness during the survival phase.

  • Stabilization

Prioritization concerns dominate this phase of a crisis. Organizations in a limited and constrained environment must focus on the right problems; recognition, prioritization and mobilization strengthen an organization’s response and limit negative impacts of the crisis.

Crisis management advice recommends over-communicating with impacted stakeholders and establishing a focus on overcoming a crisis. A key question for many leaders and organizations during the stabilization phase is, “What can we say today so that people will be ready to hear what we need to say tomorrow?”

  • Salvation

This is the phase in the crisis where harm, loss and risk have subsided. The response in the survival and stabilization phases have been effective in a timely manner and stakeholders are able to observe the results.

As the recovery phase starts, existing projects resume and planning for new capital projects moves forward. People coming out of a crisis, especially something as historically unique as COVID-19, are open to sweeping changes and a new approach to operating.

  • Stimulus

Recovery is the word of the moment. It connotates a return to a previous state of well-being. Recovery typically focuses on getting organizations back to the status quo. However, COVID-19 should prompt leaders to scan the environment and re-evaluate the status quo. What is needed, now, is something new and better.

This enhanced problem identification and learning process adopted during this crisis allows leaders to think and fund new projects. These are potential stimulus projects that spur needed economic development, enhance system resiliency/redundancy, add capacity and slack to reduce risk, and pandemic-proof facilities, among other things. 

Moving Forward

As we reach the salvation and stimulus phases, new projects will likely be funded in one of two ways: through fiscal stimulus and monetary stimulus. Whether it’s funding packages and grants or zero-interest loans and legislative policies that encourage spending, the COVID-19 stimulus funding will be a new challenge for organizations to navigate.

Organizations should begin to prepare and start developing a plan. B&N’s experts can help from applying for stimulus funding and defining projects that will be eligible for funding, to creating a vision for the future. Let’s start the conversation now.

Steve Sanders, PE, PhD, Director, Utilities Infrastructure

Steve Sanders, PE, PhD 
Director, Utilities Infrastructure

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