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Senator Mark Kelly and Representative Angie Craig Introduced the Rural Prosperity Act. Rural America Stands to Gain.

On Thursday, March 10th, a bipartisan group of legislators led by Senator Mark Kelly and Representative Angie Craig introduced the groundbreaking Rural Prosperity Act, taking up RuralOrganizing.org’s charge for a permanent point of coordination for all federal programs meant to benefit rural communities.  

More than 400 federal programs dedicated to helping rural communities are spread across 13 departments and over 50 offices and sub-agencies. This bureaucracy currently prevents many local leaders—often volunteers—from accessing the funding to implement local solutions to local needs. By cutting red tape, the Rural Prosperity Act follows leaders in Michigan, Kansas, and Wisconsin who saw the need to deliver for rural residents.

As the Arizona Sun reported last Thursday, RuralOrganizing.org Executive Director Matt Hildreth commented, “It's really easy for metro communities to get access to federal dollars, but rural communities have a disadvantage. The Rural Prosperity Act would help level the playing field by giving rural communities someone to call at the federal government.” Also from the Arizona Sun reporting, Senator Kelly, who introduced the bill in the Senate, said, “I’ve heard from too many Arizonans and small business owners in rural communities across our state who have faced challenges getting the answers or assistance they need from the federal government. Our bipartisan legislation creates a one-stop-shop for Arizona’s rural communities to get the support they need from Washington without unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.” 

The Rural Prosperity Act moves beyond the coordination of agriculture- or energy-specific departments to recognize the diversity of people and economies which make up rural America. Shakya Cherry-Donaldson, Founder and Executive Director of 1000 Women Strong added, "In the South, Black people represent the largest population of people of color. And Black women in rural south communities disproportionately bear the brunt of unequal social, political and economic conditions. Having a central office that collaborates across departments in key areas such as housing, economic prosperity, education and healthcare could be a step in closing the gaps and ensuring that all rural Americans can prosper."

The Office of Rural Prosperity called for in the Rural Prosperity Act will have a Chief Rural Advisor appointed by the President. In rising above federal departments, this coordination will impact the 94% of rural income dollars not generated by agriculture—the teachers, small businesses, healthcare providers, and others who are too often left out of rural development. 

“For too long, rural America has been exploited by corporate interests while the federal government overlooked its value and contributions,” said Sarah Carden, Policy Advocate for Farm Action Fund. “This bill launches opportunities for prosperity onto a national platform and will cultivate the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that defines our rural communities.” 

“Having a White House level position for Rural America is a position for which I've advocated since the 1990s,” says Frank Spillers, co-owner of Rural Community Solutions in Atlantic, Iowa. “Having a person at the helm to streamline agencies and organizations tasked across the federal government to assist rural areas will increase efficiency at the federal level and access and comprehension at the local levels. Our company works with rural communities across the country with population and opportunity growth, and we see this as a tremendous benefit to the administrations to have a more comprehensive grasp of rural issues and how to best help them prosper.”

View this summary of the Rural Prosperity Act to see how it will center state-driven solutions to put money back into the pockets of rural families, reduce costs, and improve quality of life. This bill will empower rural America to bring all people regardless of skin color, place of worship, or who they love, into a brighter future of shared prosperity and mutual respect.
 

“The mission of RuralOrganizing.org Education Fund is to educate and empower everyday Americans with the nonpartisan movement building tools they need to create resilient, welcoming, and equitable communities. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing."
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