The Biden administration last week announced over $5 billion in new investments in rural communities across the country, as part of its effort to increase prosperity in all corners of the country.
Speaking at an event in Minnesota last week where the funding was announced, President Biden said that rural communities have, over the past few decades, “lost more than jobs.”
“They lost their sense of dignity, opportunity, pride,” he said. “My plan is about investing in rural America, but it’s about something else as well: it’s about restoring pride in rural communities that have been left behind for far too long.”
The funds will go towards economic development, competition, and sustainability by updating infrastructure, boosting high-speed internet, and helping agricultural producers and small businesses adopt climate-focused practices.
Two billion dollars of the funding will be distributed across 99 economic development projects in nine states and Puerto Rico. This funding will be used to create jobs and build infrastructure, as well as increase access to quality health care, affordable housing, and clean water and energy.
In Wisconsin, the College of Menominee Nation will use a $352,000 grant to improve the atrium area and restrooms at the school. Improvements to the atrium entrance will include new designs to the doorway entrance, flooring, and lighting. The UW Madison Board Of Regents will also use a nearly $200,000 grant to provide technical assistance to start-up cooperatives, as well as established cooperatives, in the areas of food systems, forestry, manufacturing, child care, and veterinary services. This funding will help reach 58 groups and cooperatives.
The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) will also use $1.7 billion of the funds to adopt “climate-smart agricultural practices.” These include working with farmers to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizer to ensure that less nitrous oxide—a potent greenhouse gas—gets into the air; growing crops that naturally sequester carbon, and therefore improve soil quality; farming in a way that limits soil disturbance; and more.
In addition to helping the environment, these climate-focused practices are expected to offer farmers, ranchers, and foresters new revenue streams.
The USDA also announced that $1.1 billion of the $5 billion in funds will be distributed across 104 loan and grant awards to upgrade infrastructure in rural communities, therefore bringing new jobs, clean water and fuel, and reliable electricity to people across the country.
Two hundred seventy-four million dollars will be distributed across 16 grant and loan awards to expand access to high-speed internet for Americans living in eight states. The majority of that $274 million comes from the ReConnect Program, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program helps ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
Finally, $145 million of the total funding will be used across 700 loan and grant awards through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps farmers and other agricultural producers make “energy efficiency improvements” to their businesses to lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations.
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