April 16, 2020

Gillibrand, Delgado Urge Congress To Provide Direct Relief To New York’s Rural Communities Struggling To Respond To COVID-19 Pandemic

The Push for Robust and Direct Funding Comes as Rural Communities Are Losing Resources Due to COVID-19 Outbreak and Struggling to Access Economic Support Through the CARES Act

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19) urged Congress to include robust funding for rural communities in the next coronavirus relief package. Rural communities often operate on very thin margins and the coronavirus pandemic has caused these already struggling communities to lose valuable resources as they continue to operate with diminished sales tax returns, an abandoned tourism industry, and closures across nearly all retail sectors. Additionally, rural communities have difficulty accessing federal funds because they must rely on competitive grant programs to receive funding. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Delgado requested robust rural funding and the consideration of direct payments to small towns and counties to address their unique needs and support communities of all sizes throughout this public health and economic crisis. The push is based on framework from their Rebuild Rural America Act which would establish a dedicated stream of federal funding for rural communities and provide guaranteed, multi-year, flexible block grants to support regional economic growth. Minority Leader Schumer has proposed this framework to provide at least $50 billion in direct relief to small towns and rural communities in the next coronavirus relief package. 

“Rural communities are at the heart of Upstate New York, and their survival is key to helping our state, and our nation, recover from this devastating public health crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The challenges that rural communities face, especially during this pandemic, demand direct and comprehensive solutions. We have to reimagine how the federal government invests in rural communities — direct financial funding provided in the Rebuild Rural proposal is crucial to helping these communities respond and rebuild. I’m proud to work with Congressman Delgado to strengthen and empower New York’s rural communities.” 

“New York’s 19th Congressional District is the eighth most rural district in the House of Representatives and our communities are facing acute needs during the coronavirus outbreak. I’m working alongside our local officials to support their response to this public health emergency and I continue to hear from local officials across upstate about the need for direct federal funding that will ensure that our local governments do not need to compete for funding to continue providing vital services,” said Rep. Antonio Delgado. “The Rebuild Rural proposal is a roadmap to make sure we are empowering our small towns to make investments where they need it most, and highlights the different ways that the federal government could support communities that do not have the resources to apply for federal grants. I appreciate the Senator’s shared commitment to our rural communities. We will continue to work together to advance this urgently needed proposal for the health and well-being of our towns, villages, and hamlets across upstate.”  

Federal grant funding is often inaccessible to rural communities and too inflexible to fully meet local financial needs. This makes it difficult for rural communities and small towns to respond to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus and implement comprehensive plans to rebuild. The Rebuild Rural proposal would establish a dedicated stream of federal funding for rural communities to help them during this challenging time. This would give our rural communities the funding and flexibility needed to ensure rural residents have access to vital public safety, emergency management, and temporary assistance.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:


The Honorable Nancy Pelosi                                                   The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Speaker                                                                                Majority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives                                                U.S. Senate


The Honorable Kevin McCarthy                                              The Honorable Charles Schumer

Minority Leader                                                                    Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives                                               U.S. Senate


Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:

We write to request help for rural communities that are suffering economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to provide services for their citizens. In the best of times, our rural communities often operate on very thin margins, and in this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty they require direct assistance.

We were very pleased to see an additional investment in fiscal relief to states, tribes and localities included in the Interim Emergency COVID-19 Act proposed by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer. As negotiations move forward on this proposal, we urge inclusion of robust rural funding and the consideration of direct payments to small towns and counties to provide  support and relief to communities of all sizes across the country. Too often, funding for small towns and counties is funneled through the State bureaucracy before ever reaching the municipal governments that need it.  Traditionally, rural communities must rely on competitive grant programs to receive funding, which puts a burden on small communities to apply for funding with no assurances of success when larger communities are guaranteed assistance through funding entitlements. In communities where duties at the county and local level are often shared, it is problematic to have our rural leaders competing against one another for pieces of an already small pie. As our localities work to provide direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, they need direct funding to meet the needs of their communities.

Communities are hemorrhaging funds as they continue to operate with diminished sales tax returns, an abandonment of the tourism industry and closures across nearly all retail sectors.  Without assistance, our rural communities will face a serious downturn unless we provide them with the tools to address the complex challenges they face. In October of 2019, we introduced the Rebuild Rural America Act which directly addresses the needs of our rural communities by providing a dedicated, noncompetitive block grant  to smaller cities and rural communities. The bill sets up a framework that we encourage you to adopt into your next COVID-related bill. This framework would give our rural communities the support and flexibility needed to ensure that rural residents have access to vital public safety, emergency management and temporary assistance.

As you grapple with the needs of the American people in this time of global crisis, we ask that the Administration and Congressional Leadership come together to pass the proposed increase in funding for states, tribes, and localities, and include funding mechanisms that provides direct federal dollars squarely into rural communities and counties. These local municipalities are often best equipped to provide the services necessary to ensure rural residents can rebuild and come out stronger and more resilient than ever before.