Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and 22 of his Senate colleagues in calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to enable thousands of federal civil servants, who have experience with rapid emergency response, to assist rural communities that are increasingly overwhelmed by the challenge of responding to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

“We write to request your immediate assistance in mobilizing your agencies to offer coordinated support for rural counties, municipalities, and tribal communities as they respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” wrote the senators in their letter to FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, and DOI Secretary David Bernhardt. “Rural communities are working to set up local emergency operation centers to help manage their response, but face challenges with limited staff capacity. Across many of our states, rural counties are experiencing outbreaks and some communities are already overwhelmed with the challenge.”

Federal civil servants across the country at agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are uniquely qualified in emergency management. Many are Incident Command System qualified, have experience mobilizing resources, and coordinating communication and information flow to respond to and contain crises like forest fires. This expertise would bolster the response to COVID-19 in rural communities across America.

“We believe these federal professionals are well suited to partner with rural counties and municipalities to enhance staff capacity and support communities facing this public health crisis,” continued the senators. “Therefore, in light of the national emergency declaration, we urge you to take immediate steps to ensure your agencies are working together to make your respective staff and resources available and able to assist with emergency response to COVID-19 across the country.”

In addition to Senators Bennet and Carper, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Senate Indian Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeffery Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

 

The text of the letter is available HERE and below. 

Dear Administrator Gaynor, Secretary Perdue, and Secretary Bernhardt:

We write to request your immediate assistance in mobilizing your agencies to offer coordinated support for rural counties, municipalities, and tribal communities as they respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Rural communities are working to set up local emergency operation centers to help manage their response, but face challenges with limited staff capacity. Across many of our states, rural counties are experiencing outbreaks and some communities are already overwhelmed with the challenge.

Throughout rural America, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture employ thousands of federal civil servants who have the relevant experience to assist with emergency response. For example, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employ thousands of staff across the country who are Incident Command System qualified and have experience rapidly responding to forest fires, mobilizing critical resources, and managing information flow in times of crisis. With this expertise available, it is crucial that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide the authorities necessary and work with both agencies to deliver effective, coordinated assistance to rural communities.

We believe these federal professionals are well suited to partner with rural counties and municipalities to enhance staff capacity and support communities facing this public health crisis. Therefore, in light of the national emergency declaration, we urge you to take immediate steps to ensure your agencies are working together to make your respective staff and resources available and able to assist with emergency response to COVID-19 across the country.

Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,