Two New York federal lawmakers are reintroducing legislation to deliver resources to rural communities.
New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Antonio Delgado say their Rebuild Rural America Act would provide direct funding to rural communities, helping them to respond to and recover from COVID-19 fiscal impacts. Delgado represents New York’s 19th District.
“Our communities need immediate federal funding to stop this pandemic, but they also need access to federal dollars to build their communities back better. The Rebuild Rural America Act establishes a new $50 billion Rural Future Partnership Fund that would do exactly that, allowing our rural communities to secure flexible, long-term federal investment for comprehensive, collaborative and locally-driven community and economic development,” says Delgado. “The bill gives rural communities the funding, flexibility and technical assistance to do what they know will best help their towns.”
Senator Gillibrand is also a Democrat.
“Interested regions would form a Regional Rural Partnership Council, made up of local leaders, economic development organizations, higher ed institutions and other entities important to regional development,” says Gillibrand.
Delgado says local economies are devastated by the pandemic and lagging tourism.
“It would deliver resources directly to counties, towns and villages to address issues like food security, high unemployment, a lack of rural broadband, affordable housing and access to reliable healthcare,” says Delgado. “And I want to emphasize that the resources would go directly to our counties, towns and villages.”
“These types of programs could be life changing for the 1 in 8 New Yorkers who live in a rural area,” Gillibrand says.
Gillibrand says the recovery and revitalization of rural communities are necessary for New York’s recovery as a whole.
“Funding would be made available to programs that revitalize Main Street with better infrastructure and Internet access; support local entrepreneurs and public services like child care, health care and schools; improve disaster response; build partnerships with civic leaders and higher education to plan and train for jobs of the future, including green jobs, among other priorities,” says Gillibrand.
While she and Delgado have just reintroduced the bill, Gillibrand anticipates bipartisan support for the legislation.
“This is the kind of bill that should be in the next COVID-relief package, so I’m going to work in the Senate to get it into the negotiation of that package and if, if it doesn’t get in, we can then try again through reconciliation. But this is the kind of bill that if it got an up-and-down vote, it would pass overwhelmingly because so many places that are red and purple are also rural, so I think the congressman and I would be able to pass this easily,” Gillibrand says. “Hopefully he can get it put in the COVID package on the House side and I can get it put in the COVID package on the Senate side.”
On Monday, Delgado reintroduced a bill to protect rural hospitals that are risk of losing their Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status due to an administrative policy change made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And he is behind measures to improve rural broadband.
“The theme is how do we continue to make our rural communities sustainable, sustainable, whether it’s from a healthcare standpoint, whether it’s from an economic standpoint, an educational standpoint, how do we keep young families here, how do we ensure them health and well-being by virtue of living in a rural community,” says Delgado.
“Whether it’s protecting our hospitals and our ability to access care in our rural communities; whether it’s trying to keep our young people here by forgiving college debt; or whether it’s making sure that our Rebuild Rural America Act can foster economic sustainable growth on the ground invested in by our local leaders, all of this is meant to help sustain our communities here,” Delgado says. “And again, as somebody who represents the eighth most rural seat in the country, it makes sense that this where my focus would be.”
The Rebuild Rural America Act also would launch a Rural Future Corps in coordination with AmeriCorps to assist rural communities with implementing Rural Partnership Plans and expanding critical services including childcare, nutrition assistance and job training.