Golden, Hagedorn Introduce Bicameral, Bipartisan Bill to Improve Natural Disaster Relief for Rural Small Businesses

May 13, 2021
Press Release
Bill would simplify the process for rural small businesses applying for disaster relief

WASHINGTON —  Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) and Congressman Jim Hagedorn (MN-01) introduced the Disaster Assistance for Rural Small Businesses Act today. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The Disaster Assistance for Rural Small Businesses Act would help ensure that small businesses in rural parts of the country, including those in Maine, can more easily access relief from the Small Business Administration (SBA) following a natural disaster. The legislation would waive burdensome restrictions that keep businesses in rural areas with low population densities from applying for federal disaster relief. 

“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 SBA have delayed or completely stopped federal disaster relief from going to small businesses in rural areas,” said Congressman Golden. “I’m working across the aisle with Congressman Hagedorn to fix this bureaucratic error and restore rural small businesses’ access to disaster relief and resources.”

“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.”

“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 Small Businesses act will expand critical resources 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.”

Maine has had multiple federal disaster declarations in the past two decades, including declarations for floods, winter storms, and Tropical Storm Irene. The legislation would remove a potential roadblock for small businesses in rural Maine to access emergency relief the next time there is a natural disaster. 

The second district has more than 14,000 small businesses, according to the SBA’s 2020 Small Business Profile, which employ more than 125,000 people.