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For nearly two years, through our Campaign for Rural Progress, RuralOrganizing.org has focused on passing policies that increase good-paying jobs and wages, decrease daily expenses, and improve the quality of life for rural communities experiencing economic distress.
On Monday, April 24th, Rep. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Nikki Budzinski addressed our network of rural leaders to discuss their actions in Congress to pass policies that deliver economic opportunities in small towns and rural communities.
It’s no secret that rural America faces widespread inequalities. Rural residents are, on average, poorer, older, and experience higher rates of key risk factors than the nation as a whole. In fact, 68 percent of the United States population in persistent poverty counties is rural.
But over the last 50 years, efforts to deliver economic opportunities for the vast majority of rural Americans through both public programs and private philanthropy have largely failed because rural communities face barriers to accessing federal funding designed to help American communities thrive.
For some rural communities, the barriers to job creation may be a lack of high-speed internet or our crumbling transportation infrastructure. Other communities may need more workers with skills in growing industries or job retention resources like childcare services.
As rural people, we know that every rural community is different and that local people know best what their strengths and challenges are, and solutions should be locally driven.
That’s why we here at RuralOrganizing.org are so excited about the leadership of both Rep. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Nikki Budzinski. Both of these members of Congress are working to pass federal policies that support local rural leaders fighting for their communities.
Representative Derek Kilmer’s Newly Passed “RECOMPETE Pilot Program”
Last year, under the leadership of Rep. Derek Kilmer and lobbying and grassroots efforts by RuralOrganizing.org, Congress successfully passed a critical new federal policy that establishes a new $1 billion federal block grant program at the Economic Development Agency (EDA).
This new program empowers persistently distressed communities, including rural communities, with flexible 10-year “Rebuilding Economies and Creating Opportunities for More People to Excel” ( RECOMPETE) Grants to create good jobs in persistently distressed communities, including rural and Tribal communities.
Watch: Rep. Derek Kilmer and Matt Hildreth of RuralOrganizing.org Discuss the New RECOMPETE Pilot Program
The new RECOMPETE Grants are based on each communities’ level of economic distress. They are developed and implemented with robust technical assistance from the EDA to provide the consistent, longer-term assistance needed to execute a comprehensive, long-term economic development strategy.
RECOMPETE Grants can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including:
- Business advice for small and medium-sized local businesses and entrepreneurs, such as manufacturing extension services and small business development centers.
- Land and site development, such as brownfield redevelopment, research and technology parks, business incubators, business corridor development, and Main Street redevelopment.
- Infrastructure and housing, such as improvements in transit, roads, broadband access, and affordable and workforce housing development.
- Job training oriented to regional or local labor market needs, such as customized job training programs run by local community colleges in partnership with local businesses.
- Workforce outreach programs that reach out to lower-income neighborhoods and embed job placement and training services in neighborhood institutions.
- Job retention programs for support services such as job success coaches, childcare services, or transportation support.
We applaud the thousands of people in our network who took action to push for the passage of the RECOMPETE and the leadership of elected officials like Representative Kilmer. We will continue to advocate to ensure the implementation of this new program reaches the most marginalized rural communities.
Rep. Nikki Budzinski’s “Rebuild Rural America Act”
During her address to the RuralOrganizing.org network on April 24th, Rep. Budzinski announced her plans to reintroduce the Rebuild Rural America Act, a bill that would give rural communities a new opportunity to access federal resources to rebuild their economies.
Watch: Rep. Nikki Budzinski and Matt Hildreth of RuralOrganizing.org Discuss Rural Job Creation
A previous version of the Rebuild Rural America Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado aimed to create a new $50 billion grant program, the Rural Future Partnership Fund, to provide non-competitive, five-year, renewable block grants to certified rural regions to implement locally-developed regional revitalization plans.
The funding through the previous Rebuild Rural America Act worked to:
- Encourage rural regions to develop comprehensive, collaborative, and locally-driven community and economic development plans that revitalize infrastructure, support public services and job training, and foster local entrepreneurship.
- Require interested rural regions to form a Regional Rural Partnership Council that brings together local leaders, elected officials, economic development organizations, cooperatives, higher education institutions, foundations, and other entities important to regional development.
- Empower rural community leaders by creating national capacity and training programs that will help connect the expertise and resources of the USDA and national and regional technical assistance providers with rural regions.
- Establish a State-by-State Rural Innovation and Partnership Administration to oversee this new program and offer hands-on help to local leaders.
- Launch a Rural Future Corps in coordination with AmeriCorps to assist rural communities with implementing Rural Partnership Plans and expanding critical services, including childcare, health services, nutrition assistance, education, and job training.
We are so proud to partner with such committed elected officials like Rep. Budzinski and Rep. Kilmer, who are delivering concrete solutions for small towns and rural communities, and we are excited to continue building support for legislation that build on this success as we head into the 2023 Farm Bill.