Today, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced full implementation of the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act (the “Act”) authored by Senators James Risch (R-ID) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Rural communities often face more severe impacts from natural disasters due to limited access to resources and infrastructure, which limits a community’s ability to recover and avert long-lasting economic hardship. The Act, signed by President Joe Biden on December 20, 2022, authorizes the SBA to remove burdensome requirements for declaring disasters in rural communities.
“Small businesses are especially vital in our nation’s rural communities, and we must have effective tools to rapidly help them and the neighborhoods they serve recover when disaster strikes,” said Administrator Guzman. “With SBA’s implementation of the Rural Communities Act signed by President Biden, we have cut red tape and simplified the process for a SBA disaster declaration, which allows us to more quickly provide affordable disaster loans and assistance to rural entrepreneurs, homeowners, renters and nonprofits so they can rebuild and thrive once more.”
The law authorizes the SBA to simplify the process for a governor or tribal government chief executive to request an agency disaster declaration in counties with rural communities that have experienced significant damage. With the agency declaration, SBA is able to provide disaster assistance, including low-interest loans to individual renters and homeowners as well as nonprofit and for-profit businesses. Prior to the Act, the SBA could make an agency declaration based on damage to at least 25 homes, businesses or other eligible institutions, but now a declaration can be made with only one damaged property in a rural area when the county has received a major disaster declaration from the President for Public Assistance.
“After the signing of this legislation, the SBA moved quickly to ensure all the key elements were in place for the start of the 2023 hurricane season. Effective today, we are ready to further assist rural communities in the aftermath of disasters, Francisco Sánchez, Jr., Associate Administrator, SBA Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience. “With a request from a governor or chief executive of a tribal government, SBA may issue a declaration that will allow SBA to activate all of its disaster loans and relief programs to disaster survivors.”
Under the Biden Administration, the SBA has placed greater emphasis on helping small businesses, homeowners, renters, private nonprofits, and communities prepare for, build resilience to, and recover from the tremendous physical and financial impacts of climate change. Since January 2021, SBA has supported federal response efforts and approved over $5 billion in disaster lending alone.