Rural Relief Initiative

According to an in-depth analysis conducted by the Wall Street Journal, among the four major U.S. population groupings, rural communities now rank last on many key measures of socioeconomic well-being. These measures include:

  • poverty
  • college attainment
  • teenage births
  • divorce
  • death rates from heart disease and cancer
  • reliance on federal disability insurance
  • and male labor-force participation

The need for comprehensive rural relief has never been greater than it is today.

Rural communities have been overshadowed by inner cities for decades, but the divide between rural and urban America has seen an increased need for attention since the onset of the financial crisis.

While urban areas boast a 4.8% increase in employment since 2008, rural areas have not been so fortunate. Relative to 2008, rural America has seen a 2.4% decrease in employment, stifling economic growth and recovery in areas that sorely need it. 

And yet despite these widely recognized disparities, rural populations on average receive significantly less help from the federal government – a trend that clearly drew the attention of voters in Middle America during the 2016 election.  In 2009, federal spending in rural counties was $285 less per person than in urban counties. By 2010, that gap had more than doubled to $683 per person.

These are millions of people who have been forgotten by Washington. Fortunately, we have a unique opportunity to enact federal policies to help rural Americans get back on their feet. Last November, millions of rural voters across the nation spoke with a unified voice at the ballot box. As a result of Republican victories up and down the ballot, there is now momentum to propose and message legislation that specifically helps those who have been left behind in rural America.

The Rural Relief Initiative aims to bring parity back to the millions of Americans who have fallen through the cracks. These Americans may have been neglected by the last Administration, but will not be ignored by us. The members of these hardworking families are the backbone of our nation’s economy and the embodiment of the American spirit. We must make it a priority to ensure that their voices receive the same consideration that urban areas enjoy.

The Rural Relief Initiative was recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal. Click HERE or the image below to view.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO of Congressman Sean Duffy Introducing Initial Rural Relief Initiative Legislation

Rural Relief Initiative Legislation Descriptions

Veterans’ Agricultural Apprenticeship Act  

(Introduced by Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 45 percent of veterans come from rural America.  Over the next 20 years, it is projected that our nation will need 700,000 new agricultural workers.  While there are several programs across multiple federal agencies that focus on veterans’ job placement, none of them are operated by the USDA.  The Veterans’ Agricultural Apprenticeship Act of 2017 instructs the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to work with state departments of agriculture to identify farmers and ranchers eligible for a direct loan to train apprentice veterans in their industry.  Veterans will receive direct, on-the-job training and, in return, farmers and ranchers will get help with their operations with little cost to them.  The loan will be paid back to the USDA after the harvest season.  

Forgotten Families Recovery Act 

(Introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin)

One of the most tragic impacts of our growing opioid and methamphetamine epidemics is the tremendous toll it takes of children. Similar to the crack epidemic in the early nineties, opioid and meth use has led to a staggering increase in foster care admissions. Aside from the obvious impact this has had on rural communities’ resources, children are being exposed to increased trauma as a result of their exposure to drugs in the home and subsequent stays in foster care facilities, leading to long-term consequences that include increased risk of drug abuse in adult hood, and increased risk of a number of comorbidities and mental health disorders. The Forgotten Families Recovery Act would prioritize Substance Abuse and Mental Health grants for three populations: pregnant women, children, and individuals responsible for the care of dependent minors who are at risk of entering the foster care system. It would also provide a sense of congress that in carrying out substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall prioritize appropriate funding to rural populations.

Fab Lab Classroom Modernization Act 

(Introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin)

As part of ongoing efforts to modernize classrooms and make students more prepared for the 21st Century economy, a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology created the concept of Fabrication Laboratories, or “Fab Labs,” to begin to expose students at a young age to new 3D printing and manufacturing technologies. These labs are essentially workshops and spaces, full of tools, to make more tools. Studies have shown positive early results, including increased interest in STEM programs by young girls. The Fab Lab Classroom Modernization Act establishes federal grants for States to fund the creation and expansion of fab labs in local schools and public facilities, including rural areas in need. The program requires local schools to provide 1-to-1 dollar match, unless doing so would present substantial financial burden to the school. 


(Introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin)            

Rural communities have long suffered from a lack of federal resources compared to their urban and suburban counterparts. Under the Obama Administration, per capita funding discrepancies between rural and urban areas grew substantially, as did gaps in employment. At the same time, rural areas now fall behind urban areas on nearly every measure of socioeconomic success. The PREPARE Act (Providing Rural Equity, Parity, and Reinvestment in Education Act) starts to provide parity in funding between rural and urban populations by requiring that 15% of Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grants go toward rural areas. This percentage more accurately reflects the population of Americans living in rural communities to ensure that our nation’s resources are being fairly distributed.

Helping the Homeless Act

(Introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin)

Homelessness in rural areas is a serious problem as we do not have the infrastructure or number of homelessness organizations as do larger urban areas. The needy that would benefit from this change depend on programs such as Permanent Supportive Housing, which are aimed at helping homeless persons that not only need shelter, but are also mentally ill and in need of medical treatment.  This legislation amends section 428 of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to set aside at least 15% of total organization funding towards case management to recipients of permanent supportive housing for homeless persons. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that recipients of these grants have ample case management funds in order to provide supportive services.

Hometown Heroes Relief Act

(Introduced by Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana)

Rural EMS providers face a number of unique challenges. Where urban and suburban providers benefit from wealthy tax bases, large patient populations, and relatively short distances to travel, rural providers lag behind their inner-city counterparts on nearly every measurable standard. Rural providers frequently travel greater distances to serve fewer patients in less-wealthy communities, relying heavily on small returns from bake sales and small-scale fundraisers to cover the expenses of day-to-day operations. The Hometown Heroes Relief Act provides targeted grants to public and private non-profit EMS providers in rural areas to purchase equipment, provide training, and recruit staff where educated workforces may be lacking.

Strengthening our Pediatric Workforce Act

(Introduced by Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Ohio)

Our nation is facing a severe pediatric specialist physician shortage, and with the majority of health professional shortage areas in the U.S. designated in nonmetropolitan areas, our rural communities are shouldering the greatest burden. Many communities lack an adequate supply of physicians needed to provide high quality care to children living in rural and medically underserved areas. The Strengthening our Pediatric Workforce Act will help address this shortage by creating a grant program to fund additional pediatric specialty residency slots in rural and medically underserved areas. The grant dollars may also be used to help cover start-up costs associated with new pediatric residency programs. These costs are often cited as barriers to entry for hospitals interested in starting teaching programs since they are not recouped. Addressing the suboptimal access to specialty care for children in rural areas by building a stronger physician pipeline practicing in their community will help prevent long-term health conditions, and ensure all children receive the highest quality care they deserve.

Making Rural America Count Act

(Introduced by Rep. David Valadao of California)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Program provides federal funding through loans, grants, and guarantees to individuals, businesses, and cities in rural regions throughout the nation. In order to qualify for Rural Development Program funding, certain population criteria must be met. These population limits include prison populations, putting rural businesses, and entire cities located in regions with a prison, at a disadvantage when applying for USDA Rural Development assistance. The Making Rural America Count Act will exclude incarcerated prison populations from overall population eligibility requirements as they pertain to Rural Development Programs administered by the USDA, ensuring small communities have access to critical federal funding.

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