House Stimulus Proposal Contains Dollars for Rural Programs

The outlines of the Obama Administration's stimulus plan were revealed this week. The House Democrats' proposal has money designated for several rural programs.

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The Hoover Dam (on the border of Arizona and Nevada) was built by the Bureau of Reclamation during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Obama Administration is proposing public works projects as a way to ease a recession now.

House Democrats Thursday revealed an $825 billion stimulus plan that combined spending and tax cuts. The House plan has designated spending specifically aimed at rural areas.

In particular, the proposal includes $6 billion to expand broadband internet access “so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy.”

The House plan was constructed in partnership with President-elect Obama, according to The New York Times. It contains roughly $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts. To see a brief summary of the plan, go here. To see the House committee’s description, go here.

Rural communities would benefit from much of the general spending. For example, the House proposes spending $30 billion on roads and bridges. Some portion of this spending would take place in rural America. The Obama/House plan would spend $20 billion on school construction and some of that would benefit rural schools.

Money specifically designated for rural projects is scattered throughout the House proposal. The summary is clearly a work in progress, however. Names of programs and federal agencies don’t match with the official titles, for example. It is, however, a beginning. Here is a rundown of the places where the House stimulus package targets new money for rural America:

The House would increase funding to the Rural Business and Cooperative Programs. The plan allocates “$100 million for rural business grants and loans to guarantee $2 billion in loans.” The House report says that private lenders are “increasingly turning to this program to help businesses get access to capital.” The USDA has loan programs for both private businesses and cooperative organizations.

The Economic Development Administration would receive $250 million “to address the long-term economic distress in urban industrial cores and rural areas….” There is no description of how this money would be spent.

Rural water and sewage programs would receive $1.5 billion that would “support $3.8 billion in grants and loans to help communities fund drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.” Last year there were $2.4 billion in requests and nearly $1 billion went unfunded, according to the House report.

The Corps of Engineers would receive $4.5 billion for “environmental restoration, flood protection, hydropower and navigation infrastructure….”

The Bureau of Reclamation would get $500 million to “provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure water supply to western localities impacted by drought.” The House says that the Bureau has a backlog of more than $1 billion in rural water projects.

The House proposes spending $850 million to reduce wildfire threats on public lands. The recommendation is that $550 million of that amount would go to states for local projects. The remaining $300 million would be spent on federal land.

The proposal has a number of projects aimed at Native American communities. The Bureau of Indian Affairs would receive $500 million to “address maintenance backlogs at schools, dams, detention and law enforcement facility and over 24,000 miles of roads.” The BIA has a backlog of over $1 billion in construction and maintenance projects. The proposal also contains $550 million to modernize hospitals and clinics run by the Indian Health Services. Finally, the proposal has $500 million set aside to repair or improve housing units maintained by Native American housing programs.

The House plan would grant $500 million to the Rural Housing Insurance Fund “to support $22 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees to help rural families and individuals buy homes….” Also, $200 million would be set aside to “support $1.2 billion in grants and loans to rural areas for critical community facilities, such as for healthcare, education, fire and rescue, day care, community centers and libraries.”

The House/Obama plan proposes spending $6 billion to extend broadband internet service to underserved areas. (There is no description about how this would be done.)

The government would spend $2.4 billion for “carbon capture and sequestration technology demonstration projects.” Many of these would be at power plants in rural areas.

The Agricultural Research Service would receive $209 million to ag research facilities around the country.

 

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