Key Policy Progress
Massive New Tools and Opportunities for Rural Americans
The 2021 Rural Policy Action Report provides a roadmap to ensure all working families, no matter where they live or the color of their skin, have the opportunity and tools to build a good life and strengthen their communities. Advocates created the report by working directly with rural communities, and they have shared the report widely with policy makers, elected officials, and key decision makers in the Biden Administration. Our leaders have responded, through Executive and Congressional action, to enact key recommendations from the report and make the most significant investments in rural America in our lifetimes.
There’s more to be done, but the Biden Administration, House and Senate leadership, and a bipartisan coalition in Congress have fought through the hyper-partisan environment in Washington to make remarkable progress on key priorities for working families everywhere: getting America back to work, lowering costs, securing and rebuilding supply chains, promoting opportunity and competition, and investing in the infrastructure that all communities — especially rural communities — need to work and thrive.
Six Key Policy Wins for Rural America
- American Rescue Plan Act – Real Recovery, A Foundation for All Working Families and All Communities
- Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Essential Tools that Small Businesses, Family Farmers, and Local Communities Need to Thrive
- Postal Service Reform Act – A Lifeline for Rural America
- Key Executive Action – Prioritizing Funding for Rural Communities, Promoting Opportunity and Competition, Rebuilding Supply Chains, and Diversifying Leadership to Reflect All Americans
- Bipartisan Innovation Act – Bringing Back Manufacturing Jobs to America to Reduce Costs and Secure Our Economy
- Inflation Reduction Act – Lowering Costs of Healthcare and Energy, Securing A Cleaner and Healthier Future for All Communities
#1. American Rescue Plan
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) helped stem the tide of the pandemic and get our economy moving again by speeding up vaccinations, getting kids back in school and parents back to work.
Key Aspects of ARPA
- Providing $350 billion to ensure local communities, including Tribal Governments, have the tools to improve public health, deliver key services, and get their local economies moving.
- A critically important tax credit up to $300 per month for each child helped parents pay for things like childcare so that they could return to work and take care of their families.
- Funded $4 billion to secure America’s food system, bring food prices down, and help family farmers and small businesses feed their neighbors. This investment empowers local businesses to compete in the meat processing sector against the giant multinational corporations that dominate the industry and helps local schools purchase local food.
#2. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs
The $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) provided the most important investment in our lifetimes in our national network of bridges, roads, airports, public transportation, national broadband internet, as well as waterways and energy systems. Infrastructure investment is the most important tool that local communities need to thrive. And this landmark deal was also a huge step toward easing supply chain disruptions and lowering costs for all Americans, helping America’s farmers transport the food they produce and America’s businesses buy and sell the goods they need.
Infrastructure Deal highlights
- Expanded affordable high-speed Internet – key to making sure rural Americans can access quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities.
- Funded cleanup of toxic sites, upgrades to water systems, and clean energy transition to ensure all Americans — rural and urban — have clean and healthy environments to raise families.
- Added to ARPA investments to total over $31 billion to ensure Tribal communities have the tools to thrive, including land and water protections as well as high-speed internet. Thriving communities everywhere means a stronger economy for everyone.
#3. Postal Service Reform Act
The Postal Service is a lifeline for rural communities, providing essential connectivity for working families to access things they need to support themselves and contribute to the broader economy. The Postal Service Reform Act guaranteed the United States Postal Service can remain an essential point of connection for families across the country, no matter where they live. The Act also empowers local communities to collaborate with the USPS to secure access to even more essential services, including banking and prescription drug delivery.
#4. Biden’s Executive Action
President Biden made rural communities a key focus by directing his entire Administration to prioritize them in funding decisions, The Administration’s Rural Playbook and rural.gov resulted from our network’s advocacy.
Additional Key Executive Action for Rural Communities
- The President’s order on Competition in the American Economy directs agencies across the Federal government to rein in giant corporations that have unfairly monopolized markets, hurting small businesses and driving up costs for America’s families. A key provision for rural communities, the order established the “right to repair” which gives small businesses and family farmers the freedom to fix equipment without being forced to use only “authorized” agents.
- The President’s order on America’s Supply Chains directed the entire Administration to cooperate with the private sector and local communities to speed up delivery of critical goods and materials and get local economies moving across the country.
- By appointing Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, America’s first Native American cabinet Secretary, President Biden showed how important it is for our country’s future as a global power to include all voices in leadership and draw on the strength of our diversity.
#5. Innovation Act
Years of corporate outsourcing, compounded by unfair trade practices by some foreign governments, robbed many communities of the manufacturing jobs that were their lifeblood and made America vulnerable to supply chain disruptions from the pandemic — a key driver of higher prices. To truly secure our economy and tackle inflation, we need America to manufacture more of the things we need, especially key components like computer chips used for nearly everything farmers, small businesses, and families need to work and thrive. With the recently passed Bipartisan Innovation (“CHIPS”) Act, we’re set to take major steps to bring quality manufacturing jobs back to communities across America and secure our supply chains to lower costs for American families.
The Innovation Act invests $1 billion to create good jobs and economic activity in communities that have been left behind across rural America. The “RECOMPETE” program targets locally controlled, long-term investment to expand broadband, rebuild infrastructure, clean up pollution that endangers health and holds communities back economically, as well as support to build up small, local businesses. Local communities face unique challenges and know best how to build prosperity for themselves.
#6. Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act represented a major step toward meeting our challenge of addressing climate change while reducing the deficit and lowering costs of key things every family needs, especially healthcare, prescription drugs, and energy.
Key Aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act for Rural Americans
- The largest investment in our history to lower energy costs, create good-paying local jobs, and help communities, small business, and farmers and ranchers address climate change.
- Nearly $40 billion for local agriculture, forestry, and rural communities includes significant investment to keep family farmers on their land and promote resilient farming practices in the face of climate change, $3 Billion in loan modifications for distressed farmers, $20 Billion to encourage voluntary conservation, and a new $2 Billion program to mitigate past discrimination by USDA.
- Funding to strengthen rural electric cooperatives by helping them convert to cheaper, local renewable energy that can’t be outsourced. RECs provide a foundation for economic development in rural communities. Created in the 1930s to bring electricity to areas that investor-owned utilities refused to serve, today they provide electricity to 12 percent of Americans, much of rural America, and own 42 percent of the country’s electric distribution lines.
- A historic agreement to reduce the federal deficit by empowering Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and save taxpayers money.
- Funding to secure health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act exchanges and cap costs.
- Funded by reducing costs, closing loopholes that have allowed some of the largest corporations (19 of the Fortune 100 companies) to not pay little or no taxes, and making sure the highest income earners, those over $400,000, pay fair taxes.
In two years, the Biden Administration and leaders in Congress have focused squarely on the tools and opportunities working families need to build a good life, especially in rural communities that have been neglected for too long. Highlighted in a newly launched Rural.gov website, and coordinated through a Rural Playbook, the Administration is leading a reinvestment in rural America that can only be described as historic.
To build on this momentum and ensure rural communities can take full advantage, we need to continue investing in the civic capacity rural Americans need to advocate for themselves and engage their neighbors in elections and policy debates. For our government to best serve its people — wherever they live and whatever the color of their skin — the people must be fully engaged in choosing their elected leaders and setting priorities. Rural Democracy Initiative is dedicated to the task of empowering rural advocates to do this important policy work.