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Rural Health Information Hub

Importance of Rural Funding, Resources, and Support for Emergency Preparedness and Response

Rural communities face barriers and challenges that make them vulnerable to the shocks and stressors resulting from emergencies and disasters. Rural communities do not have the same resources as urban areas, including people and materials, and they are more likely to have financial constraints that slow recovery. For example, rural recovery from the 2008 recession was incomplete before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Rural communities also have more limited funding for rural response agencies.

Economic stability is important to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. Rural communities that are economically stable have greater capacity to recover from emergencies and build community vitality and resilience.

Investing in rural areas is an equity issue. Rural communities have historically experienced marginalization and disinvestment. Health disparities exist between rural and urban communities and across different racial and ethnic subgroups within rural communities. It is important to support rural planning that focuses on equity and addresses disparities and discrimination. For more information, see Need for Rural Health Equity Programs in the Rural Health Equity Toolkit.

Many rural communities rely on federal grant programs to support rural preparedness and response, particularly in the period following an emergency or disaster. In the United States, there are established mechanisms for delivering post-disaster funding to reach communities affected by disaster events. However, there is a mismatch between the amount of dollars going to rural areas and the proportion of residents living there. Further, the formulas and requirements in place for rural communities to access these funds are often complicated and unfavorable to rural communities and can span multiple departments, agencies, and offices. This makes it challenging for rural communities that are under-resourced to have the capacity to access funding.

Often, there is a gap between the time a disaster occurs and the time that funds and assistance are appropriated and then expended in a community. This is particularly true for housing assistance for families affected by a disaster. Local capacity to prepare for and respond to emergencies can affect the pace of recovery in local communities. Local capacity includes factors such as funding, resources, and support.

Case Study

COVID-19 and Hurricane Sally Present Dual-Threat in Alabama
The City of Gulf Shores maintains a reserve fund to ensure financial sustainability during an emergency. The reserve fund pays for expenses incurred during recovery, including employee and contract expenses. The city also routinely applies for Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants through FEMA. These funds activate during an emergency and help the city be more self-sustaining through use of generators, communications equipment, and vehicle upgrades.