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WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and U.S. Representatives Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) reintroduced the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, which would allow rural homeowners, renters, and small businesses to more easily access disaster relief in the wake of a natural disaster.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and John Kennedy (R-La.). 

Under current law, bureaucratic roadblocks prevent small businesses and homeowners in rural communities from accessing Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance following a natural disaster. This legislation creates a waiver at no cost to taxpayers allowing rural communities to more readily access and secure SBA disaster assistance in the case of a presidentially-declared disaster.

“Under the current system, disaster victims in rural communities have experienced significant delays in relief funding brought on by bureaucratic red tape. This bipartisan legislation aims to fix that,” said Senator Risch. “The Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act will make critical resources available for rural small businesses affected by natural disasters.”

“Our small businesses face enough obstacles, especially today as they’re working to put the COVID-19 crisis behind us. The last thing they should have to worry about when a disaster strikes is if they’ll be able to access the relief they need when they’re most vulnerable,” said Senator Shaheen. “That’s why I’m glad to reintroduce this bipartisan, commonsense legislation with Senator Risch that will help address these bureaucratic barriers and ensure emergency resources are available to rural Granite State business owners when they need it most.”

“When a disaster like a flood or an ice storm hits a community, small businesses are supposed to have access to emergency resources from the federal government. However, restrictions from the Small Business Administration have delayed or completely stopped federal disaster relief from going to small businesses in rural areas. I’m working across the aisle with Congressman Hagedorn and Senators Risch and Shaheen to fix this bureaucratic nightmare and restore all rural small businesses’ access to disaster relief and resources,” said Congressman Golden.

“I am proud to partner with Rep. Jared Golden, Senator Risch, and Senator Shaheen to introduce the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act,” said Congressman Hagedorn. “This bipartisan bill would make it easier for rural communities impacted by natural disasters to qualify for SBA disaster loans. As someone who represents a predominantly rural district, I know the profound impact this will have on our communities that are most in need of assistance but haven’t been able to access available resources because of unrealistic population thresholds and bureaucratic red tape. The Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act is a commonsense approach to providing a much-needed fix for our most rural small businesses who previously had difficulty accessing these, oftentimes, vital SBA disaster loans.” 

You can find the bill text here.

Background: In the spring of 2019, Idaho County in the Idaho panhandle experienced severe and unprecedented flooding, prompting a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance that helped rebuild roads and public infrastructure. In response to scores of affected small businesses and homeowners in the region, the state also applied for SBA’s disaster assistance programs. However, Idaho’s request was denied due to the county’s rural geography.

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