Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, joined Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, and 22 of his senate colleagues March 16 in calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior 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/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.”

The text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2QmUysb.