hero image
Maria Watson - University of Florida. Gainesville, FL, US

Maria Watson

Assistant Professor | University of Florida

Gainesville, FL, UNITED STATES

Maria Watson is an urban planner with expertise in disaster recovery.


Maria Watson’s research focuses on housing and small business recovery after disaster events. Maria is interested in the effectiveness of disaster recovery programs, particularly the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan Program and Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. Maria has been a part of multiple interdisciplinary disaster recovery research efforts in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina after Hurricanes Ian, Ike, Harvey, Matthew, Florence, Laura, and Delta.

Areas of Expertise (3)

Disaster Assistance

Disaster Recovery

Small Business Recovery

Media Appearances (3)

Farmers advised to inspect grain bins after severe weather

AgriLife Today  online


With severe weather systems becoming more constant across the country, a team of multistate agricultural researchers found in a new study that grain bins need to be carefully scrutinized for structural safety, soundness, and engineering integrity. The study was prompted by a string of severe weather outbreaks in the Midwest that began in 2020, as well as severe weather that has occurred throughout Texas.

view more

Federal disaster assistance loans often fall short for eastern Kentuckians

Louisville Public Media  online


Federal disaster assistance can be offered to individuals through the Small Business Administration, but many eastern Kentuckians recovering from the July 2022 floods don’t qualify. And many who do are hesitant to take on the loan. Reggie Ritchie sat parked in a neighbor’s driveway in the early morning of July 28, 2022, and watched as floodwater knocked his neighbor’s double wide into his home, off its foundation and into the street before him.

view more

Natural Disasters Displace Workers and Businesses

SHRM  online


​Extreme flooding in South Florida, tornado outbreaks in the South and Midwest, and storms in California in recent weeks have forced residents from their homes and shut down or damaged businesses from coast to coast. It follows on the heels of almost 3.4 million Americans being uprooted from their homes because of natural disasters in 2022, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

view more

Articles (3)

Assessing changes in food pantry access after extreme events

Agriculture and Human Values

John P. Casellas Connors, et. al


Food pantries play a growing role in supporting households facing or at risk of food insecurity in the United States. They also support emergency response and recovery following disasters and extreme weather events. Although food pantries are often placed in close proximity to communities with the highest rates of poverty and risk of food insecurity, access to these facilities can be disrupted during and after extreme events.

view more

Business recovery from disasters: Lessons from natural hazards and the COVID-19 pandemic

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction

Stephanie E.Chang, et. al


This paper compares economic recovery in the COVID-19 pandemic with other types of disasters, at the scale of businesses. As countries around the world struggle to emerge from the pandemic, studies of business impact and recovery have proliferated; however, pandemic research is often undertaken without the benefit of insights from long-standing research on past large-scale disruptive events, such as floods, storms and earthquakes.

view more

Disaster assistance winners and losers

Journal of the American Planning Association

Maria Watson


Disaster assistance in the United States has faced criticism for widening the unequal impacts of disasters, but little is known about whether and how this phenomenon applies to businesses. Small businesses make up most businesses in the United States, but they are particularly vulnerable to hazards given their relative lack of capital. Because recovery assistance to businesses is primarily loan based, this lack of capital can create conflicts in how aid is perceived and allocated.

view more





Headshot loading image