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Risch, Shaheen Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Facilitate Disaster Assistance for Rural Small Businesses

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced S. 3278, the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act.

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

“When Idaho County flooded last year, critical federal disaster assistance was delayed to Idaho homeowners and small businesses due to bureaucratic red tape. Disaster victims in rural areas already face significant challenges – obtaining disaster relief should not be one of them,” said Risch. “The Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act will ensure that rural communities have access to vital disaster assistance their tax dollars fund.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of New Hampshire’s economy and play a particularly important role in the economic development of our rural communities. That’s why it’s so important for small business owners to have access to the financial assistance they need to recover should disaster strike,” said Shaheen. “In the aftermath of a natural disaster, the last thing Granite Staters should be worried about is navigating cumbersome rules and regulations to obtain the emergency funds they need to rebuild. I’m glad to partner with Senator Risch on this bipartisan bill to address this bureaucratic burden and ensure emergency dollars are available to Granite State business owners when they need it.”

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.

Over the following months, Senator Risch coordinated closely with the SBA, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Idaho governor’s office to navigate the burdensome regulations that prevented Idaho County businesses from accessing disaster relief. The Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act will level the playing field for small businesses in rural areas and better facilitate disaster aid when necessary.  

To read the bill text, click here

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