The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced full implementation of the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act (the “Act”). This development is expected to significantly enhance disaster support and economic recovery in rural communities, with potential positive ramifications for small businesses.
The Act, penned by Sens. James Risch and Jeanne Shaheen, was signed into law by President Joe Biden in late 2022. It aims to address the unique challenges faced by rural communities, which often suffer more severe impacts from natural disasters due to limited access to resources and infrastructure. This lack of access can hinder their ability to recover, leading to long-lasting economic hardship.
Administrator of the SBA, Isabella Casillas Guzman, emphasized the importance of small businesses in rural communities, pointing out the Act’s role in facilitating rapid recovery in the wake of disasters. The Act simplifies the process for a SBA disaster declaration, making it easier for rural entrepreneurs, homeowners, renters, and nonprofits to access affordable disaster loans and assistance.
The Act also permits a governor or tribal government chief executive to request a disaster declaration from the SBA in counties with rural communities that have experienced significant damage. Once the SBA issues a disaster declaration, they can extend assistance, including low-interest loans to individual renters, homeowners, and nonprofit and for-profit businesses. This is a departure from previous legislation which required damage to at least 25 homes, businesses, or other eligible institutions for a SBA disaster declaration. Now, a single damaged property in a rural area can trigger a declaration, provided the county has received a major disaster declaration from the President for Public Assistance.
Francisco Sánchez, Jr., Associate Administrator of the SBA Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience, confirmed that they are poised to assist rural communities in the aftermath of disasters as the 2023 hurricane season begins.
The SBA’s focus on rural communities aligns with its broader commitment to helping small businesses, homeowners, renters, private nonprofits, and communities prepare for, build resilience to, and recover from the significant physical and financial impacts of climate change. This strategy, prioritized under the Biden Administration, is demonstrated by the SBA’s role in federal response efforts and its approval of over $5 billion in disaster lending since January 2021.
For small business owners in rural communities, the Act’s implementation represents a significant lifeline. Its commitment to removing bureaucratic hurdles and providing rapid aid in the aftermath of natural disasters provides hope for increased resilience and recovery in areas traditionally marginalized in disaster response. Whether you are an entrepreneur, homeowner, renter, or non-profit organization in a rural area, this news underscores the government’s commitment to providing support when it is needed most.
This development reinforces the importance of preparing for the unexpected and creating robust strategies to protect your small business from potential risks, a critical lesson for all small business owners.
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