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Rural America Needs Help. Democrats Need to Keep their Promises. Deliver the Aid

The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganzing.org:

Like the rest of the country, rural America is hurting. The pandemic has had an outsize impact on rural towns and counties. 

Today, Democrats in the House and Senate took a big step towards  delivering on their promises to deliver much needed help with passage of  budget resolution for fiscal year 2021.  This sets in motion the process to finally pass President Biden’s much needed $1.9 trillion relief package - and that is a welcome development. 

Senators and Representatives need to think about the needs of their constituents first and foremost - and, their rural constituents need help now. This isn’t a political debate for them. It’s real life.  There is not one hurting family in America who  cares about the “process” or “beltway bipartisanship.”  Right now, their focus is feeding their families and paying for medicine. 

We also strongly urge the Biden administration and members of Congress to refrain from lowering the threshold for support checks. Importantly, they should base any decision using 2019 income as the baseline when the dire impacts, like loss of jobs and income, happened in 2020.

We encourage Democrats to act big and act bold to help all Americans  - because we know Republicans won’t.

 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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‘Damn! What a week!’ Matt Hildreth responds to President Joe Biden’s first full week in office

The following is a statement by Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org.

Damn! What a week. We’ve made more progress in Rural America during President Joe Biden’s first week in office than any other seven day period in recent memory.

With the appointment of national rural development experts in key positions within the administration, President Biden is assembling the team to build back better in rural America, and with swift executive action, he is beginning to correct the course on climate change, the failing rural economy, immigration, and of course, the pandemic.

As we celebrate these recent wins for small towns and rural communities, we were thrilled that the President named Kelliann Blazek, who ran the Wisconsin Office of Rural Prosperity, as Special Assistant for Agriculture and Rural Affairs. We look forward to working with her and others in the administration to implement the Biden administration’s national strategy to uplift rural communities. And, we will continue to advocate for a “National Office of Rural Prosperity” modeled on those in Wisconsin and Kansas. We will also continue to push both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to expand federal rural programs that benefit rural workers, their communities, and their families.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed countless structural vulnerabilities that have been festering in small towns and rural communities over the last several decades. So many of the actions Washington is now taking to combat an extended economic recession and improve access to healthcare and a vaccine are long overdue and must stay in place after we beat back Covid-19. We strongly encourage Senate Democrats to move as quickly as possible to pass the Biden administration’s package intact. Their constituents need the help.

Actions President Joe Biden took during his first week in office to benefit Americans living in small towns and rural communities.

 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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Matt Hildreth on the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris

The following is a statement by Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org.

Today marks a new beginning for the nation. At RuralOrganizing.org, we look forward to working with the new administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to improve the lives of all Americans, particularly those in rural areas who were left behind by Donald Trump.

We strongly believe that the best way President Biden can ensure small town America benefits from federal programs for years to come is by opening  a national  office of Rural Prosperity like Governor Kelly did in Kansas and Governor Evers did in Wisconsin.

We encourage the new President to continue to take bold steps through executive actions to undo the harm caused by Donald Trump. Besides being the right thing to do, ending the Muslim Ban will help staff rural hospitals. Ending the assault on immigrants will help rural communities that depend on them. Ending the KXL pipeline will stop the seizure of property from rural landowners and the assault by private industry on tribal lands. And, we strongly support the increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour. 

This is the time for bold initiatives and the President’s initial COVID relief package is a great start.  Biden’s plan to issue $1,400 per-person checks to working families, extend current unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility until the end of September, and expand the 15 percent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase will ensure stimulus money reaches those who need it most. 

President Biden’s plan to provide grants to more than 1 million of the hardest hit small businesses and leverage $175 billion in additional small business lending to save our Main Street communities is absolutely critical because small businesses are the backbone of small towns and rural communities. 

Now, we need the package to pass. Republican Senators who block these programs are blocking aid to their constituents who need it most - and many of them live in rural parts of their states.

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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ICYMI from Rolling Stone: Can Joe Biden and the Democrats Win Back Rural Voters in 2020?

Yesterday, Andy Kroll at Rolling Stone published an article focused on the work of rural progressive activists in the 2020 election. The piece highlighted the grassroots work of many of our colleagues, including Brigid Flaherty from DownHomeNC, the important role of the Rural Democracy Initiative contribution and input from the Executive Director of  RuralOrganizing.org, Matt Hildreth. The answer to the question posed in the title of Kroll’s piece is yes, if Democrats do the work. 

An excerpt:

There’s early evidence that these efforts, in combination with the broader surge in energy on the left during Trump’s first term in office, can make a difference in rural America. Much has been written about how the suburbs powered the Democratic blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections, but the biggest shift in voters who supported Democrats two years ago after backing Trump in 2016 happened not in the suburbs but in rural areas, according to the left-leaning analytics firm Catalist. As Hildreth likes to say, rural voters are swing voters, even if they’re rarely talked about that way by pollsters and pundits.

Those swing rural voters could not only decide the presidency this year, but also control of the U.S. Senate given the political map in 2020. To win them over — or at least enough of them to deny Trump the staggering margins he recorded in ’16 and flip the Senate — liberal donors are pouring money into rural organizing efforts like Hildreth’s and dozens of others across the country. From distributing tens of thousands of Biden-Harris yard signs to employing cutting-edge canvassing tactics to funding hyper-local organizations built to last beyond one or two election cycles, this renewed focus on rural voters could not only prove to be key to defeating Trump but a critical part of stitching together a fraying nation.

The full article can be read here.  Matt Hildreth is available for interviews. 

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As Coronavirus Surges, The South Dakota Department of Health Releases Previously Hidden Hospital Bed Data in Response To RuralOrganizing.org Public Records Request

Columbus, OH—Over the past few months, as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has downplayed the threat of coronavirus to the residents of the state, the Department of Health has refused to share critical data, including available hospital beds.

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org, repeatedly sought that information through public records requests but was stonewalled for over three months. He reached out to Keloland-TV in Sioux Falls, which brought results. 

The lack of information about the situation in South Dakota is especially ominous given the state’s surging number of cases. This week, according to the New York Times, South Dakota has the second highest cases per 100,000 and three of the top hot spots in the country are in the state.

Health care and the impact of coronavirus are critically important issues for rural populations. Three polls conducted by Rural.Organizing.org this year, in  MarchMay, and  July, found health care ranked as the top issue even as voters expressed frustration with Trump’s handling of the pandemic. 

The following is a statement from Matthew Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org:

“Rural populations are facing an onslaught of coronavirus cases even as Governors like Kristi Noem downplay the crisis. She and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds seem more interested in campaigning for Donald Trump, whose failed response to the pandemic is the reason we’re in this crisis. Today, Noem is holding events in New Hampshire for Trump.

Rural voters are deeply concerned about the lack of health care options, closing rural hospitals and spiking covid-19 cases. But, their leaders are not only minimizing the crisis, they’ve been blocking access to vital information. I’m just relieved that RuralOrganizing.Org could get some results. And, I know front line health care workers understand the crisis the state is experiencing so we thank them for their heroic efforts.”

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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National Rural Leaders Respond To The First Presidential Debate

Columbus, OH—Presidential candidates, Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, largely ignored all substantive issues -- rural issues included -- during their first debate last night. 

Now, rural leaders are coming together to make sure that critical rural issues are not ignored during the remainder of the 2020 election season. 1 in 5 voters call 'rural America' home and these voters are looking for solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing rural communities in modern US history. These challenges include the COVID-19 pandemic growing rapidly in our rural communities, catastrophic wildfires displacing thousands of rural people and the rural  economy reaching near depression-mode in places.

The following are statements from rural advocacy leaders from across the country.

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org said:

Most issues, including rural issues, were largely ignored during the first presidential debate last night. Rural voters deserve a dignified debate about the catastrophic challenges facing our communities. We want common sense solutions that raise our wages, decrease our daily expenses and improve the quality of life in rural communities.

Last night was an embarrassment for all Americans. The President prevented a discussion of any issues, embraced white nationalists and promoted voter suppression. We  know the dangers of these words. There are so many critical issues that warrant discussion. But that’s not what we got. Instead, we got more of the President trying to pit people against each other.


Jake Davis, Rural Policy and Political Strategist said: 

A debate in the state of Ohio with more than 2.3 million rural residents and over 77,000 farms should have included at least a mention of rural communities and farmers struggling to deal with COVID, an economic crisis and crumbling public infrastructure. Instead, the American people, including those in rural communities, were the clear losers headlined most notably by President Trump’s call for his supporters to watch the polls as a voter intimidation tactic.

Krissy Kasserman of Food & Water Action said:

Rural America has been left out of the political discourse in this country for far too long, and last night's debate was no exception. People living in rural areas are facing monumental challenges, including but certainly not limited to increasing consolidation in agriculture, declining farm earnings, the hollowing out of rural communities and worsening impacts from the pandemic. Many critical battleground states, including Ohio where last night's debate was held, have significant rural populations. The failure of candidates to address the issues that matter most to rural people will only further disenfranchise voters in the swing states that are key to winning the 2020 presidential election.

Cody Atkinson of Family Farm Action said: 

The debate last night witnessed by millions of Americans failed to address the issue of corporate control of our farm and food system and the devastating economic and environmental consequences of unhampered monopoly power. We hope the candidates use the next debate as a stage to give substantive answers on how they plan to tackle this serious problem.   


 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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Poll of Rural Voters in Critical 2020 Senate Battleground States Found Strong Opposition to Making Abortion Illegal

Columbus, OH — Over the summer, RuralOrganizing.org conducted a poll of 7,004 rural and exurban voters fielded from June 30 to July 13, 2020 in seven Senate battleground states (Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana and North Carolina) and the critical presidential swing state of Wisconsin.  

The results showed that Joe Biden and Senate Democratic candidates are cutting Republican margins in 2020 battleground states in rural and exurban areas — turf usually considered prime territory for Republicans. 

In addition, we polled a number of important issues including abortion. Our findings showed that a significant number of rural and exurban voters are opposed to making abortion illegal - an issue that has much more salience as President Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell move forward with a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. See below for results by state.

The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org:


“Turns out the politics of President Trump and Senator McConnell’s Supreme Court agenda will be damaging  to Republicans in Senate battleground states. Our polling shows that rural voters in these states oppose outlawing abortions, but President Trump has made it clear that making abortions illegal is one of his prioirities for the Supreme Court nominee. Americans have largely reached a consensus on reproductive health care, that’s true for voters in big cities, small towns, and rural communities. Trump and McConnell should think twice before they take our country down this divisive path.”

State by state breakdown from our 2020 battleground state polling

How Strongly do you agree with the following statement: Should Abortion be illegal?

State

Strongly agree 

Somewhat agree

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree 

Don’t know

Alaska

21

15

17

38

8

Georgia

24

20

18

30

10

Iowa

26

17

16

35

6

Kansas

29

18

14

32

7

Maine

17

17

17

44

6

Montana

25

15

13

43

4

North Carolina

27

19

14

32

8

National

25

17

15

35

7

 

 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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In Case You Missed It: Joe Biden should pledge to create a National Office of Rural Prosperity

Columbus, OH—Today, Matt Hildreth published an op ed in the Storm Lake Times, one of the Iowa and the nation’s most cherished rural publications, calling for Joe Biden to establish an office of Rural Prosperity. The proposal is based on extensive research conducted by RuralOrganizing.org  with rural voters - and provides an opportunity for Biden to engage with voters too often overlooked or misunderstood by pundits and campaigns. 

An excerpt:

Our polling also revealed that rural people are open to bold actions and big ideas. They know a corporate agenda in Washington, DC is holding back their communities and want leaders who will have their backs by supporting small businesses and critical services in their communities like grocery stores, pharmacies, and schools.

Here’s how Joe Biden and Senate Democrats can win rural voters: propose and promote a national Office of Rural Prosperity to address the unique structural challenges of rural housing, education, healthcare, small business development, and job creation. We know addressing these issues will resonate, because this is what rural voters told us mattered most to them in our extensive research.  

Farmers comprise less than 10% of the rural workforce. Most rural Americans are employed in the education, healthcare and social assistance sectors. These essential institutions are the foundation of strong rural communities, and funding to support them directly benefits all rural people.
 

The full oped can be viewed here. Background on the extensive public opinion research can be found here.

 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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Apparently The Trump Administration Just Learned The United States Postal Service Is A Very Popular Lifeline For Rural America

Columbus, OH—The following is a statement by Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org in response to reports that Postmaster General Dejoy will pause changes to the operations of the Postal Service until after the election.

Apparently, Donald Trump and his postmaster general just figured out what we’ve known all along: the USPS is very popular. And, as our polling shows, the USPS is particularly popular with rural voters in battleground states.

Over 430,000 Americans have taken action on our petition demanding that Congress fully fund the United States Postal Service. For years, Republicans have been working to privatize the post office.  Not only are Dejoy’s proposed changes at USPS designed to further that goal but they have proven incredibly disruptive to our democracy during an important election year. 

Today, Postmaster General Dejoy made a statement indicating he’ll stop his destruction of the USPS until after the election, but that’s not enough. There’s no good time to attack the post office. The damage he’s inflicted on behalf of Trump  must be undone and he needs to resign.

Rural Organizing conducted a poll of rural and exurban voters in seven Senate battleground states - Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina - and Wisconsin. When asked, “How favorable are your feelings about the United Postal Services?,” the results were overwhelmingly positive - far exceeding the numbers for Donald Trump.

Again, these are rural and exurban voters.

“How favorable are your feelings about the United Postal Services?”

  • Battleground Aggregate - 68% favorable with  37% very favorable 

  • Alaska -  65% favorable with 32% very favorable

  • Georgia  - 64% favorable with 34% very favorable

  • Iowa  - 69% favorable with 37% very favorable

  • Kansas - 70% favorable with 35% very favorable

  • Maine - 70% favorable with 38% very favorable

  • Montana -  69% favorable with 41% very favorable

  • North Carolina - 70% favorable with  41% very favorable

  • Wisconsin - 68% favorable with 37% very favorable

 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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Joe Troop Plays A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service Outside Postmaster General Louis Dejoy’s Greensboro, NC Home

Greensboro, NC—Today, Grammy nominated bluegrass musician Joe Troop  joined protesters outside Postmaster General Louis Dejoy's Greensboro, NC. home with his banjo and played his song titled "A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service." 

Video of the event was captured on Twitter and quickly racked up almost 20,000 views.

 

The United States Postal Service is one of the government’s oldest and most reliable entities - and that’s especially true in rural America.  This summer,  RuralOrganizing.org  launched a campaign that has generated over 427,000 signatures calling for action to save the Postal Service, nearly 50,000 petition signatures demanding an investigation into the Trump slowdown at USPS, and 30,000 letters to members of the Senate.  "A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service,” written by Joe Troop, was commissioned by RuralOrganizing.org as part of this campaign.

The following is a statement from Joe Troop:

I wrote this song in April and now, four months later, we’re still waiting on the Senate to take action.

Staging a protest in front of the most exclusive country club, outside Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s Greensboro home, in defense of the Postal Service is exactly what we should be doing right now. The richest people in our country are trying to usurp our Democracy. 

Funding the United States Postal Service  is not a red or blue issue. It is an American issue. But the postal service has been made a pawn in a political parade. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do need to come together around certain issues and the post office is one of them.

The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org. 

The Postal Service has long been a lifeline for rural communities because it delivers to the most rural and remote parts of the country, often on behalf of the private delivery companies who don’t want to risk their profit margins by providing service to everyone. 

Every member of Congress, but especially those representing rural states and districts, should be demanding full funding for the post office—especially in light of this year’s election. But instead, we’re going to see which of those members put their loyalty to Trump ahead of their constituents— again.

Even before the pandemic, the rural health system was already in trouble. Now, Trump is threatening another one of rural America’s most reliable lifelines. 

The outpouring of support for the RuralOrganizing.org  campaign to save the Postal Service sends a clear message: the Senate must act now.

The following are the lyrics to Joe Troop’s song titled,  “A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service”

I’m waiting by the mailbox, they say a check is coming soon
1200 bucks to ease the pain and pay a bill or two
But no more aid will come my way, unless I take a stand.
The US Postal Service direly needs a helping hand.

Oh won’t you heed this message, won’t you hear my mournful cry
It’s hard to keep your wits about with all this death and dying
But harder times will come our way, on this you can rely
Unless we learn to not be fooled by awful dreadful lies.

Our government is doing a disservice to us all.
To not deliver us the mail should be against the law!
So many men and women out risking their poor lives
Delivering goods to our front doors despite these troubled times
They make the rounds to bring us mail, they work come rain or shine
and now it seems the government is leaving them behind.

I too have lost my livelihood, I’m struggling day by day
Ole Uncle Sam won’t bail me out, while corporate crooks are saved
In times like these it’s fair to say we’ll need new ways to vote
But if the Postal Service dies, my friends, that’s all she wrote.
They’re well aware of what’s to come and chose to do us wrong.
If the US Postal Service dies, our right to vote is gone.

It’s time for us to make demands, before it is too late.
So, fully fund the US Postal Service for God’s sake!

 

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