Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate with other federal agencies so thousands of federal civil servants, who have experience with rapid emergency response, can help rural communities that are increasingly overwhelmed by the challenge of responding to the novel 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),” the senators wrote 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 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,” the senators continued. “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.”
Joining Wyden and Merkley on the letter were U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Gary Peters, D-Mich., 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., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Thomas Carper, D-Del., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.
A copy of the letter is available here.
A web version of this release is available here.