April 30, 2020

Gillibrand Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Call To Fund Northern Border Regional Commission As Congress Begins Negotiations On Next Coronavirus Relief Package

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined a bipartisan, bicameral call to include dedicated funding for the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. The NBRC is a federal-state partnership that provides economic and infrastructure development assistance for rural counties across New York. Northern communities have faced unique challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and additional NBRC funding would ensure the Commission can help communities fund and complete existing projects, respond to new challenges, and rebuild for a post-pandemic economy. 

“New York’s Northern communities are in critical need of support to recover from the public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As Congress begins negotiations for the next relief package, we must consider the challenges at our Northern border and provide additional funding so the NBRC can fully support communities in need. I will always stand up for New York’s rural and border counties and I’m proud to push for crucial resources.”

From 2010 to 2017, the NBRC invested over $57.6 million in New York’s rural counties. More than 20 counties across the state rely on the Commission to help create jobs, reduce poverty and unemployment, and limit outmigration in Northern Forest communities. As Northern communities grapple with economic challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the NBRC Commission has received requests about response and recovery projects as part the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 grant cycle — this demand is expected to extend into FY 2021.  

In the letter, Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues called for additional resources critical to ensuring NBRC can help communities fund and complete existing projects, respond to new challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and prepare for a post-pandemic economy. Specifically, the group of lawmakers pushed for additional funding to:  

  • Provide economic and infrastructure development assistance to projects in economically distressed communities and ensure the Commission can support current projects that are struggling to secure local matching funds.
  • Deploy additional funding to help communities conduct broadband planning, capacity building and feasibility studies; as well as acquire equipment that can be deployed quickly to connect communities to the internet in order to ensure New Yorkers have accessible and reliable broadband as more transition to remote learning, teleworking and online medical appointments.
  • Provide additional resources for the NBRC Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, which provides small businesses with much-needed financial assistance to respond to and recover from the public health crisis.

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

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Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,

As you develop future legislation to help communities respond to the pressing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we respectfully request that you include dedicated resources for the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC). Investments from the NBRC have significantly improved the infrastructure and quality of life in rural parts of our states, spurring economic growth, job creation and community development. Congress should provide additional funding to expand the capacity of this important program to help communities cope with and recover from this public health emergency.

Established in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-234), the NBRC is a federal-state partnership that provides economic and infrastructure development assistance to 60 rural counties in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Maine. Since its creation, the NBRC partnership has invested more than $55 million in 248 projects that have helped to create jobs, reduce poverty and unemployment and limit outmigration in Northern Forest communities. These investments have leveraged more than $142 million in other public and private funds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for communities across the country, and among those most vulnerable are our rural and economically distressed communities. To date, the Commission has already received outreach about projects specific to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 grant cycle. This demand is likely to extend into FY 2021 as communities continue to grapple with the economic challenges posed by the public health crisis. The wide-ranging economic effects of COVID-19 are also projected to hamper communities’ ability to access local matching funds for NBRC grants, with existing grantees reporting that their source of local funding has dried up.

Additional resources will be important to ensuring the Commission can help communities fund and complete existing projects, respond to new challenges and build for a post-pandemic economy, as well as leverage existing federal and community partnerships. Given this need, we respectfully request that you include dedicated funding for the NBRC in any future relief package. While the Commission’s efforts are uniquely tailored to meet the needs of each community in the Northern Forest region, we recognize areas specific to the current mission and expertise of NBRC that will be particularly critical for communities in need:

  • Economic and Infrastructure Development. Providing economic and infrastructure development assistance to projects in economically distressed communities is essential to the NBRC’s mission. In the last year alone, the Commission supported 45 projects, including efforts to provide workforce training and modernize critical infrastructure in the Northern Forest region. Additional funding would ensure that the Commission can support current projects that are struggling to secure local matching funds, as well as fund additional projects that contribute to COVID-19 recovery efforts.
  • Broadband Planning and Connectivity. The current public health emergency has further exposed the stark disparity between communities that have access to high-speed internet and those that do not. As our constituents transition to remote learning, teleworking and online medical appointments, access to reliable and affordable broadband is a necessity. NBRC is well positioned to deploy additional funding to help communities conduct broadband planning, capacity building and feasibility studies, as well as acquire equipment that can be deployed quickly to connect communities to the internet.
  • Revolving Loan Fund. One of the most pressing problems in local business development, and a significant contributing factor to local economic distress, is credit availability. Administered by nonprofits and municipalities, the NBRC Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program provides small businesses with much-needed financial assistance. Bolstering funding for NBRC would further support the work of the RLF program to help meet the needs of small businesses in the region as they respond to and recover from the public health crisis.

We appreciate your consideration of this important request and look forward to working with you to ensure Northern Forest communities have the resources they need to respond to this pressing public health emergency. 

Sincerely,