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With The Creation Of the Rural Partners Network and the Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council, The Biden Administration Continues to Show Up and Deliver for Small Towns and Rural Communities

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

We applaud the Biden administration for the creation of the Rural Partners Network and the Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council.

 While addressing the challenges facing America's small towns and rural communities will take historic action by Congress, the new “proof of concept” Rural Partners Network is giving a few select communities a big head start. And we are excited to apply the lessons from RPN to future legislation like the upcoming Farm Bill.

The newly announced “Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council” will create a new, desperately needed whole-of-government approach to rural economic development and conduct outreach to rural communities and rural leaders to disseminate information, offer technical assistance support, and seek input regarding the economic development barriers they face and support they need. While we acknowledge the need to grow this approach to include at least Tribal leadership and the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the recognition of the need to pull federal agencies together to coordinate an approach to rural development is a significant step.

For over two years, RuralOrganizing.org has pushed for a White House Office of Rural Prosperity, as proposed in legislation by Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), to coordinate access to all federal government programs in one place. Many of the challenges we’re looking to address through such an office, like helping rural communities identify and leverage critical federal resources, are also being explored through the Rural Partners Network and the Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council.

We are excited that the Biden Administration is taking definitive administrative actions while working within the limitations of existing law. Now, we need action from Congress. Through  bills like the Build Back Better Act, the Rural Prosperity Act, and the Rebuild Rural America Act, we can ensure our communities have the resources needed to build homegrown, bottom up rural prosperity for generations to come.

“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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RuralOrganizing.org Statement on President Biden’s Visit to Rural Iowa  

Today, President Biden traveled to  Menlo, Iowa, a small town about 45 minutes west of Des Moines with a POET Bioprocessing plant to kick off a three week rural America tour as part of a “Building A Better America rural infrastructure tour” to talk about the impact of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments, as well as the President’s broader commitment to ensure federal resources reach all communities in rural America. 

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

Yesterday, we welcomed the Biden administration’s Rural Playbook. Today, the President  is making good on the report’s promise to tour rural communities with a visit to Menlo, Iowa.

Rural voters want elected officials who know their communities are worth fighting for and they want to see results. Today, President Biden is not only “showing up,” he’s got the chance to show rural voters that he’s on their side and making sure their government works for them.

Since President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law nearly five months ago, the Biden-Harris Administration has hit the ground running to deliver results. The Administration has made key progress towards implementing the largest long-term investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.

The President and his administration established the Rural Playbook to coordinate programs in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act federal programs that are meant to benefit state, local, Tribal and territorial governments in rural areas.  

It’s important to remember that without Biden in office, there would be no infrastructure bill. Already, in Iowa, we know that there have been financial commitments to the infrastructure law to the Iowa Departments of Public Safety and Human Rights.  We also know that Iowa’s Republican Senators split their votes on the infrastructure bill while all three Republican House members voted no. 

We believe the President and his administration can learn a lot by talking to the local officials who are trying to successfully utilize the new funding.  Also, we hope this is an opportunity for the Biden Administration to share more about the diversity of people and economies which make up rural America.  For example, 80% of rural Iowans are not involved in production agriculture and more rural Americans are employed in the education services, health care and social assistance industry than agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and mining

We consider the Rural Playbook an important step in the right direction as we continue to push for the White House Office of Rural Prosperity, as proposed in legislation by Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), to coordinate access to all federal government programs in one place.

According to our analysis of data from USASpending.gov, Iowa has already $4.3 million in federal grants through the infrastructure bill.

  • The Iowa Department of Human Rights was awarded $937,361 through the Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration for Children and Families for low-income home energy assistance. The objective of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is to make grants available to states and tribal governments for the purpose of assisting eligible households to meet the costs of home energy. Supplemental Leveraging Incentive funds may be awarded to reward states that provide additional benefits and services to LIHEAP-eligible households beyond what could be provided with Federal funds. A portion of the leveraging incentive funds may be set aside by HHS for LIHEAP recipients to provide services through local administrating agencies to help LIHEAP-eligible households reduce their energy vulnerability under the Residential Energy Assistance Challenge Program (REACH). Training and Technical Assistance funds are authorized to conduct federal monitoring and provide training and technical assistance to recipients administering the LIHEAP block grant.

  • The Iowa Department of Public Safety was:

    • Awarded $276,931.32 through the Department of Transportation and the Department of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for state and community highway safety. The program provides a coordinated national highway safety program to reduce traffic crashes, deaths, injuries, and property damage.

    • Awarded $162,292.91 through the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for national priority safety programs for the specific purpose of impaired driving countermeasures. The program encourages states to address national priorities for reducing highway deaths and injuries through occupant protection programs, state traffic safety information system improvements, impaired driving countermeasures, passage of effective laws to reduce distracted driving, implementation of motorcyclist safety programs, and the implementation of graduated driving licensing laws.

    • Awarded $47,192.50 through the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for national priority safety programs for the specific purpose of state traffic safety information system improvements. The program encourages states to address national priorities for reducing highway deaths and injuries through occupant protection programs, state traffic safety information system improvements, impaired driving countermeasures, passage of effective laws to reduce distracted driving, implementation of motorcyclist safety programs, and the implementation of graduated driving licensing laws.

    • Awarded $40,870.05 through the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for national priority safety programs for the specific purpose of occupant protection. The program encourages states to address national priorities for reducing highway deaths and injuries through occupant protection programs, state traffic safety information system improvements, impaired driving countermeasures, passage of effective laws to reduce distracted driving, implementation of motorcyclist safety programs, and the implementation of graduated driving licensing laws

In addition to the infrastructure law, the Rural Organizing Education Fund found that the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), has made millions of dollars available to all of Iowa’s 99 counties. These funds will be available for COVID recovery, public health, and community resilience programs through December 31, 2024.  This vital law, which Governor Reynolds often touts, was opposed by all the Republican members of the Iowa delegation.
 

“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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Statement on the Biden Administration’s Rural Playbook

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

We welcome the release of  the Rural Playbook from the Biden administration and appreciate the work and effort by so many, including Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu,  to make it happen. 

This program will  assist  the coordination of programs in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act federal programs meant to benefit state, local, Tribal and territorial governments in rural areas.  As the White House statement noted, the Playbook  “provides rural communities with information on the ‘what, when, where, and how to apply’  for funding under the law – so no community needs to hire a lobbyist to access their government.”  This is a critically important issue for rural communities that often cannot access available funds because of the cost and bureaucratic complications. 

We also welcome the tour of rural infrastructure by the President and key members of his administration. We know from our work that the Biden administration can learn a lot by talking to the local officials who are trying to successfully implement these programs.  Also, we hope this is an opportunity for the Biden administration to share more about the diversity of people and economies which make up rural America. 

We consider the Rural Playbook an important step in the right direction as we continue to push for the White House Office of Rural Prosperity, as proposed in legislation by Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), to coordinate access to all federal government programs in one place.

“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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Our Statement on the Signing of Postal Service Reform Act

Today, President Biden signed into law the Postal Service Reform Act. The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org, who attended the White House signing ceremony:

RuralOrganizing.org strongly supported the Postal Service Reform Act,  legislation that was long overdue. 

The United States Postal Service is one of the government’s oldest and most reliable entities. All Americans rely on the Postal Service, but in rural America, the Postal Service has been a lifeline. Private delivery services don’t want to risk their profit margins by providing service to everyone so they exclude many small towns and rural areas, but the USPS has never abandoned us. 

We want to congratulate and thank the Save the Postal Service Coalition for their tireless work. Two years ago, RuralOrganizing.org and MoveOn launched a petition that has quickly  garnered over 433,000 signatures calling for action to save the Postal Service. It was, by far, the biggest response we ever got to one of our actions. The outpouring of support for the RuralOrganizing.org/MoveOn petition to save the Postal Service sends a clear message: Rural people love the Post Office!

Signing the Postal Services Reform Act into law is an important step towards securing the financial security of this vital institution.

“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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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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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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RuralOrganizing.Org Urges Rejection Of Unconstitutional Ohio Congressional Map Proposal

The following is a statement from Brent Edwards, Ohio Organizer for RuralOrganizing.Org:

“RuralOrganizing.org expresses our frustration and concern with the passage of the most recent Congressional map by the Republican-led Ohio Redistricting Committee. The map does not follow the letter nor the spirit of the 2018 Constitutional Amendment, which sought to reduce the partisan influence of redistricting. The fact that this map did not earn one Democratic vote of support is indicative of the unfair, partisan nature of this map.

While Ohio supported President Joe Biden by over 45 percent in 2020, this map would likely result in Democrats only winning 4 of the 15 districts. This map clearly creates a built-in advantage for Republican elected officials, and would further insulate elected leaders from the feedback of the citizens they purportedly represent.

Rural Organizing applauds the work of rural civic leaders and grassroots organizations who presented maps that follow all constitutional rules for district compactness, competitiveness, and proportionality with statewide election results. Citizens from all corners of the state echoed the sentiment that Ohio is a state with diverse political opinions, and that our Congressional Districts should adequately represent the sentiments of all voters, not just those that match the current majority in the legislature.

It is clear that with now three unconstitutional legislative maps, and now this blatantly gerrymandered Congressional map, that the Republicans on the committee have not been operating in good faith with complying with the established rules for map making. Rural Organizing urges the Ohio Supreme Court to see through this latest tactic, and firmly strike down this map.

If the Republicans on the committee do not work in good faith to create fair maps, it is within the Supreme Court’s power to appoint a special mapmaker to ensure that constitutional maps are created and administered. If this happens, voters should remember that it was Republicans who have repeatedly undermined the integrity of this process and that they should be punished accordingly at the ballot this November.”

“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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The American Rescue Plan Took Center Stage Last Night At The State Of The Union. Here’s How It’s Impacting Your Community

Last night, at the State of the Union, President Biden reminded the nation that  one of the first things he did as President “was fight to pass the American Rescue Plan.” And he explained, again, why, “ Because people were hurting. We needed to act, and we did.’ 

He also made a critically important point about that legislation, “Few pieces of legislation have done more in a critical moment in our history to lift us out of crisis.” That’s proven true in counties, cities, and towns across the country, including our rural communities that have long been overlooked by federal spending. 

In fact, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which the President signed  on March 11, 2021,  is one of the largest infusions of funding directly allocated to individuals, families, and communities  in U.S. history.  Despite the crisis the country was facing, ARPA  was opposed by every single Republican in Congress.  

Local programs that have been established or enhanced through the American Rescue plan are easily searchable using the USASpending.gov website. 

To see how government funds are being spent to improve your community, click here.

Thanks to ARPA, local and state governments have access to billions of dollars not available before the pandemic. In fact, ARPA delivers $350 billion for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments and the funds lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.

Over the last year, through this covid relief legislation, we have had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the challenges facing small towns and rural communities through bold federal programs that invest directly in Rural America.

In total, ARPA delivers:

  • Direct Financial Assistance | $656.18 Billion

  • Assistance To Individuals & Families | $56.27 Billion

  • Education & Childcare | $211.57 Billion

  • State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds | $362 Billion

  • Health  Funding | $86.24 Billion

  • Transportation Funding | $40.16 Billion

  • Other Programs | $61.32 Billion

If you have questions about localizing ARPA stories in your community, please contact Matt@RuralOrganizing.org .

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was one of the most significant rural prosperity bills we’ve seen in years. 

Specifically, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 benefited small towns and rural communities by: 

Small towns and rural communities were hit hard by the pandemic but many of these communities have struggled economically for years.  Through ARPA, every single county in the country received relief funds. Now a year after the passage of this bill, every county can see concrete improvements directly funded by this legislation.

“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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What You Won’t - But Should - Hear From Kim Reynold’s GOP Response To SOTU: Thank You Joe Biden

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

Tonight, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union. No doubt, we’ll hear a lot of attacks on President Biden from her. But what she won’t say, but should is: Thank You Joe Biden.

Kim Reynolds’ campaign has been running ads in Iowa media promoting her response tonight. Those ads are appearing with an article that begins, “ $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act will go toward addressing Iowa’s housing shortage.”  

During Governor Reynolds’ Condition of the State speech on January 11, 2022, she cited investments in broadband and housing that were a result of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds leveraged by Iowa, despite her having previously referred to ARPA as a “Blue State Bailout.”

Yet, in Iowa, Kim Reynolds takes credit for projects funded by ARPA, which every single Republican in the U.S. House and Senate voted against, including Iowa’s Senators Grassley and Ernst, and Iowa’s Representatives Hinson, Miller-Meeks, and Feenstra. As Reynold’s own campaign acknowledges, Iowa has benefited greatly from ARPA. But Kim Reynolds won’t say that tonight. 

What Kim Reynolds also won’t acknowledge is that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was one of the most significant investments in  rural communities we've seen in decades.  Like most Republicans, Reynolds would rather stick it to Joe Biden than support her rural constituents. In Iowa, we see this play out all the time. Republicans talk a good game about supporting rural residents but their priority is to deliver for the multinational corporations and monopolies that exploit rural communities.  

And, we can expect more of that tonight. 

Just don’t expect a well-deserved thank you to the elected officials who actually delivered billions of dollars to local communities through the American Rescue Plan.


“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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RuralOrganizing.Org Statement on President Biden’s Visit to Ohio

Rural Organizing Education Fund welcomes President Biden’s visit this week to Northeast Ohio, as he marks the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Ohio’s need for investment in infrastructure is real and pressing, as reflected by the American Society of Civil Engineer’s designation that the state’s infrastructure is at a “C Minus” or “Mediocre, Requires Attention” level. The bipartisan package begins to address these issues by providing ten-billion dollars in highway funding for the state, in addition to more than thirty three billion in competitive grant funding for highway and multi-modal projects. These funds are crucial as Ohio’s roads and bridges carry the third highest freight load out of all 50 states. 

“For far too long, deficiencies in infrastructure have held back Ohio’s rural communities from reaching their full potential” said Brent Edwards, Rural Organizing’s Ohio Statewide Organizer. “We urge state and local leaders to put aside partisan differences and fully participate in this competitive grant making process so their constituents can benefit from the passage of this long awaited  infrastructure legislation. If done right, local investment will lead to local jobs, benefitting our communities.  Doing so can unlock this once in a generation source of funding, in order to build more equitable and resilient communities so all of Ohio’s residents can thrive.” 

“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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