Strengthening the Economy & Expanding Opportunity in Rural America

Posted on by Karina

Today, the House passed the Rural Housing Preservation and Stabilization Act (HR 5017) by a vote of 352-62.

The legislation ensures that families in rural communities continue to have access to much-needed affordable mortgages at no cost to the taxpayers and continues the Department of Agriculture’s loan guarantee program which provides middle-income rural households with access to affordable mortgages (Section 502 home loans). The economic crisis of the past two years has led to a significant increase in demand for these loans, with the number of rural home loans tripling since 2006, and federal funding failing to keep up. As a result, the program is expected to run out of funding within days. This bill makes the program self-funded, with small fees on lenders on the guaranteed loan at origination.

The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) issued a report today on Strengthening the Rural Economy, surveying the current state of rural America and outlining policies to support and strengthen the rural economy. The report details how the Recovery Act signed into law last year is helping–some facts about what the Recovery Act is doing:

Increasing SBA small business lending, with SBA loans for rural areas 2.5 times higher in December 2009 from January 2009

Spurring clean American-made energy, much of which is produced in rural America, along with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007

Accelerating the spread of broadband internet service to rural areas

Upgrading water infrastructure to address the lack of safe drinking water in rural areas with $3.7 billion in loans and grants for rural water and wastewater infrastructure

Making a down payment in the rural workforce by providing $7 billion for education in rural communities

Investing nearly $26 billion in health information technology, critical to dealing with the unique difficulties rural families face in accessing doctors and hospitals

Recent news articles demonstrate the direct impact the Recovery Act programs mentioned in the report are having, from Texas to Idaho:
San Angelo Standard Times (Texas), UPDATES: Stimulus funding to grow rural broadband:

A total of $7.2 billion in federal stimulus funding has been allocated to Texas for increasing broadband accessibility in rural areas, said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples…

Staples said the funding will help rural town libraries, hospitals and schools expand broadband services.

“Local schools are some of the biggest employers in rural Texas, and having the tools that they need to educate our kids will make a tremendous difference,” he said.

According to research, 173,000 jobs could be created in Texas through broadband expansion.

Expanding high-speed Internet could also enhance and improve health care. The same study estimates Texas would save an average of more than $52 million in annual health care costs if broadband services are expanded across the state.

KIVI ABC-6 (Idaho), St. Luke’s Gets $5m to Improve Cancer Care:

The federal stimulus bill will help St. Luke’s Mountains States Tumor Institute fight cancer.

MSTI is among 14 new cancer centers chosen by the National Cancer Institute to join a national network of community cancer centers with a shared mission to expand research and care opportunities at hospitals serving largely rural, suburban, small town and underserved populations.

As one of the new cancer centers joining the effort, St. Luke’s MSTI will receive $5 million over the next two years for research, clinical trials, outreach efforts and more.

Telluride Daily Planet (Colorado), Stimulus boosts renewable energy in Dove Creek:

Tiny Dove Creek has a new spot for renewable energy and jobs, paid for in part by Obama's stimulus package.

San Juan Bioenergy will get nearly $300,000 for its bioenergy production plant.

The money comes from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, popularly known as the stimulus. In a statement, Congressman John Salazar praised the work of the company.

“This funding will help grow the development of renewable energy and protect jobs at a time when jobs need protecting,” he said. “I'm glad to support this effort and I will continue to support efforts that help America develop renewable energy solutions and grow the economy of rural Colorado.”

The Democratic-led Congress will continue to take America in a New Direction, working to create American jobs and a strong new foundation for our economy in rural America, protecting Main Street and the middle class.

Learn more:

Read a blog post by Christina Romer and Ann Wolverton on about the CEA report»

Read the full report by the CEA»

Learn more about how the health insurance reform legislation signed into law last month ensures that all individuals in rural areas have access to the care they need close to home»

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