Press Release

Welch Introduces Rural Recovery Act to Provide Funding for Emergency Recovery Technical Assistance After Disasters Hit 

Jun 6, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, introduced the Rural Recovery Act, legislation that will create a new program at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD)  to provide RD state offices with automatic funding for emergency recovery technical assistance after Presidential declared disasters take place in their jurisdiction. The program is modeled after a pilot program spearheaded by USDA RD and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) which provides towns with technical assistance for disaster recovery. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) cosponsored the legislation. 

“Vermont is still recovering nearly a year after floods tore through our state. A critical part of the recovery process is ensuring every town has the resources necessary to access emergency relief funds when disasters strike. But many rural communities often don’t have the capacity needed to identify and apply for disaster relief grants when they’re still trying to dig out their driveways and make sure their neighbors are safe after a major flood,” said Senator Welch. “The Rural Recovery Act will help our towns manage the post-disaster recovery process and help our communities prepare before another climate change-related crisis hits.” 

“Over the past year, New Hampshire was roiled by a number of severe storms that caused flooding and other serious damage to residences and businesses across the state, including in rural areas,” said Senator Shaheen. “Yet the technical expertise needed to apply for emergency assistance is often a huge barrier for smaller, rural communities. This legislation would allow USDA Rural Development to provide assistance, which will help more Granite Staters access recovery funds when they’re needed most.” 

The Rural Recovery Act would provide automatic funding to USDA RD state offices in disaster impacted states. Recipient offices can use funding to administer disaster recovery technical assistance to towns that have experienced Presidentially Declared disasters. The technical assistance funding—generally available up to three years after a disaster occurs—could be used by state RD offices to hire internal employees or contractors to provide technical assistance to towns for their recovery efforts. 

Technical assistance providers could also assist with any federal agency funding applications, which can involve any disaster damaged infrastructure, including U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), USDA, or state agency funding applications to address disaster damage.  

Learn more about the Rural Recovery Act

Read the full text of the bill.