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Our Response to the 2012 Drought; SBA Recovery Assistance Available in Rural America

Cross posted from the Small Business Administration Blog:

Today, I attended a meeting of the White House Rural Council, which focused on our coordinated response to historic drought conditions that are affecting communities across Rural America.

Our goal at the SBA and across the Administration is making sure that these hard hit communities have the tools and the resources they need to navigate and recover from these severe drought conditions.

To date, the SBA has issued 71 agency drought declarations in 32 states covering more than 1,630 counties. These declarations allow small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and non-farm small businesses that are economically affected by the drought in their community to apply for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

To find out if your county has been declared a drought disaster area, view SBA’s current disaster declarations page. And to learn more about how to apply for a disaster loan, go to the SBA Disaster Assistance section of the SBA Web site.

You can also contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by e-mail at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or by calling (800) 659-2955. The USDA’s Disaster and Drought Assistance site also is a good resource. It includes links to maps of current disaster declaration areas and a weekly weather and drought blog.

In addition to our disaster loan program, the SBA, the USDA and the Department of Commerce through its Economic Development Administration (EDA) will be hosting forums in communities impacted by drought conditions. The goal of these forums will be to provide comprehensive information on the federal resources that are available to assist your farm, ranch or small business.

At these forums, we will have SBA disaster assistance staff, our field staff and counselors from our resource partner network on hand to ensure you have all the tools and information you need to help your business.

For those not able to attend these forums, we will be setting up shop at State and County Fairs across the country to make sure all of your questions are answered and that you are getting the assistance you need. We also will be hosting a series of online webinars and conference calls to provide real-time information and updates over the coming months.

Rural America is critical to our nation’s economy. And a key to the long-term success of rural communities is access and opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs in these regions. We are focused on making sure that more small businesses in rural communities have the access to capital, counseling and contracting opportunities they need to grow and create good jobs.

We know how important credit unions are to rural communities. That’s why the National Credit Union Administration will be announcing that an additional 1,000 credit unions are eligible for low-income designation, which exempts them from the statutory cap on small business lending. This allows unlimited lending to small business owners, including farmers. Of the 1,000 credit unions that will be receiving this designation, nearly half are located in a severely drought-stricken state.

I travel all over the country meeting with small business owners and entrepreneurs.   Some of the most innovative and exciting small businesses being built today are in Rural America. And we are going to make certain that rural businesses not only have the resources they need to endure these difficult drought conditions, but we are going to ensure that they have the tools to emerge stronger and more competitive than before.

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