(Before It's News)
“Strong rural communities are key to a stronger America” – President Barack Obama
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 5, the White House will host the White House Rural Forum, convening rural policy, business, and nonprofit leaders to Penn State University in State College, PA, and announcing new Administration actions in support of rural America. At tomorrow’s convening, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Chair of the White House Rural Council, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf will lead discussions on pertinent issues facing rural communities, including opportunities for economic growth and strategies for improving health care and housing. Secretary Vilsack will also urge lawmakers and the private sector, foundations, and nonprofits to recognize opportunities in America’s rural communities to ensure continued social and economic progress.
Significant gains have been made across rural America: Rural household income climbed 3.4 percent in 2015, and overall poverty and food insecurity fell dramatically, rural populations have begun to rebound, and non-metro areas have added more than 250,000 jobs since 2014, while the share of rural Americans without health insurance is now at an all-time low.
Established by President Obama in 2011, the White House Rural Council coordinates the Administration’s efforts in rural America by streamlining and improving the effectiveness of federal programs, engaging stakeholders on priority issues, and coordinating private sector partnerships to create economic opportunity and improve the quality of life.
Building on the work of the White House Rural Council, today the Administration and non-Federal organizations are announcing new investments and highlighting programs to support continued progress in rural America, including:
- $3 Billion Invested in Rural Infrastructure Projects: In 2014, USDA launched a public-private partnership with Capitol Peak Asset Management and CoBank, a national cooperative bank and member of the Farm Credit System. Since 2014, more than $3 billion in private sector funding has been lent to over 400 financings of projects in the power, water, communications and community facilities industries.
- $7.7 Million in New Grants to Bring Broadband to 6 Unserved Communities: USDA’s Community Connect program provides funding for broadband deployment into unserved areas. Since 2009, USDA Rural Development broadband programs have helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.
- $24.4 Million to Fund 80 New Efforts to Support Rural Businesses: Since 2009, USDA has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; and financed 180,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines. New investments announced today:
- $10.9 million invested in 15 new Rural Economic Development Loan (REDL) and Grant (REDG) projects: Under the REDLoan and REDGrant programs, USDA provides zero interest loans and grants to local utilities which they, in turn, pass through to local businesses (ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas.
- $9.1 million invested in 15 new Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) projects: Under the IRP program, loans are provided to local organizations (intermediaries) for the establishment of revolving loan funds. These revolving loan funds are used to assist with financing business and economic development activity to create or retain jobs in disadvantaged and remote communities. Intermediaries are encouraged to work in concert with partners who can provide complimentary resources.
- $1.2 million invested in 4 new Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) projects: RMAP provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to help micro-entrepreneurs – very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees – access capital to start or grow businesses. MDOs use the funds to provide training and technical assistance to small businesses or to establish revolving loan funds that provide micro-loans, typically $5,000 to $50,000, to rural micro-entrepreneurs.
- $3.2 million invested in 46 new Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) projects: RBDG is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas that have fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenues.
- Grants to Increase Rural Veterans’ Access to Health Care: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Rural Health is awarding $215 million in grants for FY2017 to 138 VA Medical Centers to prioritize rural programs to increase access to health care services impacting approximately 570,000 rural Veterans and approximately 800 rural providers and health care staff. These grants will support the implementation of proven models of care delivery in rural serving clinics. Programs enhancing Primary Care, Mental Health Care, Specialty Care and Enabling Services will be available in VA clinic locations where these were not previously available.
- Investing in volunteer service to address the opioid crisis in Rural America: The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will provide up to 19 AmeriCorps program development grants to states and their governors’ service commissions to address the growing opioid crisis in America, including in rural areas of affected States. AmeriCorps VISTA just announced that one of its FY2017 priorities for applications is to have members promote opioid addiction recovery. Last year, CNCS invested $220 million in programs that help rural communities address their biggest challenges. More than 190,000 AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps members served their rural neighbors in every state through tasks like tutoring children, building or repairing homes, and providing nutritious meals.
- Rural IMPACT Demonstration pilot program: The Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (Rural IMPACT) Demonstration Project helps communities adopt a two-generation approach to addressing the needs of both vulnerable children and their parents, with the goal of increasing parents' employment and education and improving the health and well-being of their children and families. The project, led by HHS in collaboration with USDA, the Department of Labor (DOL), CNCS, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and other philanthropic partners selected 10 local and tribal communities to receive interagency technical assistance and capacity-building resources to reduce child poverty. Today, USDA and CNCS are pleased to announce that AmeriCorps VISTA members will be placed in all 10 Rural IMPACT communities for a second year.
- Economic Development Planning Assistance for Rural Communities: Several agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA, the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services, the Economic Development Administration, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Delta Regional Authority, is launching Rural Advantage, offering planning assistance to help up to 30 rural communities grow their economies and revitalize downtown neighborhoods. Rural Advantage joins a suite of Federal economic development planning assistance programs for rural communities that include:
- Local Foods, Local Places, which helps communities leverage local food enterprise to diversify their economy and renew their downtowns;
- Cool & Connected, which helps communities use broadband service to create walkable, connected, economically successful neighborhoods; and
- Healthy Places for Healthy People, a new program that will help communities use centrally located health care facilities to promote community development and active living.
Communities interested in assistance are invited to apply by November 6th.
- Health Information Technology Investments: HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is investing approximately $36 million in rurally-located health centers to support strategic investments in Health Information Technology. The investments will help health centers enhance their health IT and better prepare providers and staff to use health IT and data.
- Investments to Address Chronic Diseases: HRSA is investing $2 million to support rural primary care providers, such as critical access hospitals and rural health clinics, to plan and implement quality improvement activities such as medication management, to address chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
- Community Coaches to Help Rural Leaders Tackle Child Poverty: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin are providing Community Coaches to ten innovative communities participating in the Rural Impact County Challenge, an initiative led by the White House Rural Council and the National Association of Counties to address rural child poverty. Coaches will work directly with selected communities’ leaders and multi-sector teams to address factors that contribute to child poverty.
- Investments in Rural Teacher Preparation Programs: As part of its Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Program, the Department of Education is investing nearly $15 million over five years to develop teacher preparation programs at higher education institutions that partner with high-need schools to help train new and experienced teachers.
- Release of “Rural Strategies that Work”: The White House Rural Council is releasing a memorandum entitled Rural Strategies that Work, which presents strategies for Federal work in rural America that have resulted in improved outcomes over the course of the Obama Administration. Authored by Secretary Vilsack, Office and Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients, the memorandum presents policies and administrative actions that increase rural communities’ ability to access and leverage local and Federal resources.
- Highlighting the accomplishments of the White House Rural Council: Secretary Vilsack is publishing a new Medium Post that highlights the work of the White House Rural Council and the organizations with which it works. The post contains stories and videos of Federal-local collaborations to drive economic growth, improve rural quality of life, and expand access to healthcare in rural America.