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WASHINGTON - The Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, led by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). This legislation will allow rural homeowners, renters, and small businesses to more easily access disaster relief in the wake of a natural disaster.

“It is high time that rural communities impacted by natural disasters are free of bureaucratic red tape and receive timely access to critical assistance and resources,” said Risch. “I’m pleased to see this bipartisan legislation move another step closer to becoming law.”

“As a former Governor, I understand that state and local officials are often best positioned to assess conditions on the ground after a natural disaster,” said Shaheen. “Giving Governors the ability to request assistance directly will help local communities — including sparsely populated rural areas that might otherwise be overlooked by federal authorities — recover more quickly.”

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.

Under current law, bureaucratic roadblocks prevent small businesses and homeowners in rural communities from accessing Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance following a natural disaster. The Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act allows the Governor of a state to request disaster assistance from the SBA during a presidentially-declared disaster, allowing rural communities to more readily access and secure SBA disaster assistance during the greatest times of need.

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