When a tornado, flood or other disaster strikes, rural officials might not know Rural Development can help. Molly Hammond, acting state director for Illinois Rural Development, points out they don’t have to wait for a disaster. In fact, it’s better if they don’t.
“There’s programs to prepare. They can find ways to prepare for disaster, like an early warning siren, if they need a new one,” Hammond said.
A recently released USDA resource guide compiles Rural Development programs and assistance in one place. “This guide is there to help them know what to look for,” Hammond said of the “Disaster Resiliency and Recovery Resources Guide.”
The guide outlines 40-some Rural Development programs and services for rural residents, businesses and communities to support disaster planning and recovery.
Hammond explained the guide’s information grid gives an at-a-glance way to learn who is eligible to apply for different programs that are grouped by categories of assistance. Those categories are: economic development planning and housing; education and training; infrastructure and equipment; and industry and entrepreneurship support and business development.
The guide “breaks down categories to help applicants narrow it down,” she added.
Applicants are not limited to local units of governments, but include nonprofit organizations and cooperatives, such as electric and agriculture cooperatives; hospitals, libraries, faith-based organizations, community colleges, universities and eligible education institutions.
The resource guide also features examples of how USDA programs were used to support recovery efforts. Hammond said Illinois received $1.7 million in assistance when 27 counties were designated federal disaster areas in 2019. Another time, five communities received $618,000 for help with community water systems after a disaster.
Beyond Rural Development, the guide summarizes technical assistance available from federal agency partners, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that work with USDA to support rural communities in disaster planning and recovery. Hammond said work on the new national resource guide stemmed from former state Rural Development director Colleen Callahan’s time in Washington, D.C., working on the 2012 drought. At that time, officials developed a national recovery website to compile federal assistance and information and align resources.