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Rural Organizing Statement on Today’s Senate Hearing On Rural Quality of Life: Democrats have listened and Have a Plan

Today, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee held a hearing titled, Rural Quality of Life: Opportunities and Challenges for the Rural Care Economy. The following is as a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director or RuralOrganizing.Org:

For the last few years, the Democratic strategy for engaging rural voters was, "Show up and listen." 

Today, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee’s hearing on the Rural Quality of Life showed many Democratic Senators have taken that advice seriously. Now the Democrat’s  2022 rural strategy seems to be, "Show up with a plan and bring receipts.

Democratic Senators and their witnesses  focused on rebuilding rural economies from the bottom up with a focus on health care, child care, and housing. Their approach was in sharp contrast to the Republican Senators and their DC insider witness who focused on trickle down big ag economics, a strategy which has not worked for rural communities.

Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small outlined exactly what's at stake for rural communities when it comes to child, health, and elderly care during the hearing:  Rebuilding small towns and rural communities is literally a matter of life and death, not just for the community as a whole but also for the residents who live there.

At the hearing, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) talked about solutions through “The Hospital Revitalization Act”  to support small hospitals across the country, especially in rural America, as they work to modernize aging facilities. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has also been a leader on rural job creation through her efforts focused on equity based approaches to rural workforce development, highlighted how her “Rebuild Rural America Act” will support the rural care economy by creating a dedicated long term funding source for rural health care providers.. To be very clear, Senator Gillibrand's “Rebuild Rural America Act” is the gold standard for building bottom up rural prosperity.

Senator Tina Smith (D-MN)  focused on reducing daily expenses for rural Americans especially when it comes to costs associated with rural housing. She also asked Deputy Secretary Small how USDA programs can be better used to protect affordable housing in small towns and rural communities.  Senator Smith highlighted the need for rural affordable housing policy at USDA to ensure equity, especially in rural communities of color. Importantly, she  knows that native communities are a critical piece of the Democratic base and that good housing policy in native communities is good politics.

On another key point, Senator Smith highlighted the need for better coordination across the federal government to ensure rural elders have the resources needed to stay in their homes at today's Senate hearing. And she also knows that better federal coordination is needed to ensure tax dollars intended for rural communities stay in rural communities. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) is working to address this exact issue  with the Rural Prosperity Act.

During today’s hearing, Senator John Boozman (R-AR), the ranking Republican, made one point with which we agree when he called for more rural grant writers to ensure rural communities can access federal programs. This is what Senator Gillibrand’s  Rebuild Rural America Act is all about. We hope Boozman will cosponsor it.

It's clear Democrats are showing up for rural communities and have a plan. Now they need to get this agenda on the floor for votes to show which elected officials truly have rural America's back. Not only does this Democratic agenda create the investments needed to build strong homegrown rural economies but it also highlights the GOP hypocrisy of voting against funds for Rural America while working to ensure those funds reach their rural voters.

“The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing."


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