‘Rebuild Rural’ Legislation Announced
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-New Nork, have introduced the Rebuild Rural America Act, which would deliver federal resources directly to rural communities as they respond to, and recover from, the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
Traditionally, rural communities must compete against each other for limited grant funding while larger communities are guaranteed assistance through funding entitlements. Gillibrand and Delgado said the pandemic has exacerbated the financial challenges already confronting rural communities as they have been forced to operate with diminished sales tax returns, an abandoned tourism industry, and closures across nearly all retail sectors.
“Due to the pandemic, rural communities are grappling with unprecedented financial and public health challenges. These communities will face a serious downturn unless they receive federal assistance,” Gillibrand said. “The Rebuild Rural America Act will provide a lifeline for rural communities to access the federal resources needed to address the complex issues they face. Investing in rural America is smart policy and is key to helping our state recover from this crisis.”
Specifically, the Rebuild Rural America Act would do the following:
¯ 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.
¯ Funding will be allocated proportionally based on the population of each region, with an increased allocation for regions that include areas that have a poverty rate greater than 20%.
¯ Eligible regions include those with a central community of 10,000 to 50,000 people, collections of rural census tracts or counties outside of regions with a central community of 10,000 to 50,000 people, and Indian reservations. States, in coordination with USDA, will certify the regions’ participation in the program.
¯ Encourage rural regions to develop comprehensive, collaborative, and locally-driven community and economic development plans that revitalize infrastructure, provide support for 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.