After decades of disinvestment in rural places, exacerbated by COVID-19, we need to enact policy that creates new opportunities for people to improve their lives and communities. Grassroots organizations with deep ties to rural communities are essential to both pass and implement effective policy. Rural groups not only identify and advocate for policy solutions, they use their relationships to ensure meaningful implementation. They also communicate success to build momentum for future solutions.
Make Policy Tangible
Many working people are skeptical that federal policies will actually improve their lives, so it’s critical to give people a straightforward way to access a resource and a clear sense of how it impacts their lives. As a movement, we need to center people as active participants who create and benefit from progressive economic policies.
Show the Urgency and Power of Civic Engagement
Rural communities will not see more investment unless rural people demand it from both candidates and elected officials. And people need to see how their actions lead to those investments. For example, people voted in record numbers in 2020 and 2021 — the Democratic victories led to the 2021 stimulus checks, yet only half of rural voters associate the economic program with Democrats and these electoral outcomes.
Support Local Implementation
When the Federal Government funds programs, grassroots organizations play an important role in making sure they benefit their communities. They hold state and local governments accountable for implementation while also connecting their people to the new benefits. During the pandemic, many people used economic stimulus money to take care of their families and improve their economic situation. But too many people didn’t know how to access programs. For example, many people didn’t make use of rental assistance and child tax credits because of state government inaction and limited public engagement.
Winning Jobs Narrative
We’re creating a compelling progressive economic narrative and a blueprint for successful messaging about jobs and work.
Understanding Narratives and Strategies that Build Black Political Power
New Georgia Project (an RDI grantee) and HIT Strategies’ recent research found that effective messaging to Black voters should include sharing “resources that they can benefit from directly as a result of the vote that they took.” They also suggest giving people an action that can create more opportunities, and demonstrating how our victories are only possible because people got engaged and voted.
We’ve compiled a list of Federal resources to support your ongoing communications with constituents. See below for resources on the Child Tax Credit, broadband, healthcare, American Rescue Plan, Infrastructure, competition, and SNAP. These programs exist because people organize and vote. We encourage you to share these resources and expand access.
“Maggie Wiggin received $550 that Thursday morning, thanks to the expanded child tax credit... ‘and I got the biggest smile on my face,’ she said. She immediately paid down her credit-card debt. Insurance still won’t cover her son’s therapy, but now it’s easier to afford. ‘I feel like there’s very few good news stories, and this is one,’ she said.”-New York Magazine
Child Tax Credit
In July 2021, the Biden administration launched a temporary program to support working families with expanded child tax credit payments. Most families are automatically enrolled, and people can also register with the signup tool. The program increased economic opportunity for working families, which helped them pay for things like child care and transportation, so they can work, take care of their families, and get out of poverty.
To get the full Child Care Tax Credits, families must file a tax return.
Child Tax Credit - Resource List
Use the toolkit to spread the word on getting the Child Tax Credit
Everyone needs a connection to broadband and the Biden administration has several programs bringing high-speed internet to everyone in America. The Infrastructure and Jobs Act includes $65 Billion to ensure that every household in America has the option to connect to high-speed internet. These funds are on top of unprecedented state and local government resources from the American Rescue Plan to support connectivity for school children, healthcare, and other institutions.
In addition to increasing geographic connectivity, there is also a federal program making internet more affordable. People can find local providers at the Affordable Connectivity Program. Learn more about how to promote the program with the Affordable Connectivity Program toolkit.
Use the toolkit to spread the word on getting the Affordable Connectivity Program
New Rural Project in North Carolina partners with regional medical providers and other community-focused organizations to organize pop-up vaccine events
Healthcare and COVID
More people have the healthcare and resources they need because of the Biden administration.
Healthcare Resource List
- Over 200 million have been vaccinated, and more every day. Find a vaccination center near you.
- Order your free Covid test kits at covidtests.gov.
- Get reimbursed for test kits through insurance.
- Avoid surprise medical billing. The Biden administration banned it.
- Millions of Americans gained access to more affordable healthcare with a lower cost of healthcare premiums and copays. Sign up at healthcare.gov.
- The Biden administration provided significant support to rural hospitals and rural health care providers, including clinics, in-home, and hospice care.
American Rescue Plan
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided direct relief to Americans, so they could take proactive health actions and rebuild our economy. ARP supported many of the items listed above. Additional highlights from the program include:
- People used $1,400 relief checks to take care of themselves and their families during the pandemic and to help the economy recover
- $4 Billion to protect the food supply chain so that farmers and small businesses can continue serving American families and keep our economy going
- Housing assistance for renters and homeowners so that people have a foundation of stable housing during the pandemic and economic slowdown
- Support for small business owners, economic engines of most communities, who were especially hit hard during the pandemic
- Nearly $5 billion so that all family farmers have the tools they need to supply a healthy food system for American families. As Americans we believe everyone should have an equal opportunity. All small farmers work hard to provide food for us, but some face more barriers than others. Historical and present-day discrimination and unequal access to resources has created unique barriers that have pushed Black, Indigenous, and people of color farmers into debt and forced many to give up farming entirely. ARP funds forgive loans, launch an equity commission, and ramp up outreach to historically underserved communities. Unfortunately, conservative activist organizations have thus far blocked the implementation of debt forgiveness through litigation.
- For ARP stories, see Ruralorganizing.org’s ARPA Success Case Studies and NACO’s Report.
Direct Assistance to Local Governments
The American Rescue Plan included flexible funds for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments. This funding provides a unique opportunity for local, rural governments to spend funds with a high degree of flexibility to meet local needs.
Infrastructure and Jobs Act
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the biggest investment in roads and bridges since the Interstate Highway System was built. It’s also the biggest investment ever in ensuring clean water for all Americans. The Act strengthens the electric grid so that electricity outages are less likely. It also funds manufacturing projects to keep and support domestic jobs.
Learn More About Infrastructure
- White House Fact Sheet
- Rural Playbook
- Building Back Better
- NACO Analysis
- State by State Factsheets (Aug 2022)
Additional Federal Opportunities
- REAP pays for renewable energy or energy efficiency projects so farmers and small business owners can cut their energy costs while reducing greenhouse emissions.
- Funding Opportunities Database
The Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy champions many vital priorities of the RDI Network. It calls for new and better rules to lower prescription drug prices, increase wages, expand internet access, and establish the “right to repair,” which empowers people to fix their equipment and property without going to an authorized agent. Family farms will have resources to compete and sustain their business. Biden’s Order also requires agencies across the Federal government to review issues around corporate concentration.
The maximum SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit in 2020 didn’t cover the minimum meal costs for low-income families. In 2021, the Biden administration increased SNAP food assistance benefits. The program benefits millions of rural residents and is an important driver of the economy. Sign up for SNAP.
Park County, Montana is using American Rescue Plan to partner with Yellowstone Bend Citizens Council, an affiliate of RDI-grantee Northern Plains Resource Council, to launch a new solar project.
RDI-Grantee Hoosier Action mobilizes around the American Rescue Plan.
CONNECT WITH RDI
How are you communicating about federal programs? Contact us and share how you're working to engage rural people.