U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today announced that the bipartisan FY 2021 appropriations package includes $5 million in funding for the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program. The program was authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill in a provision based off of Gillibrand’s Rural Jobs and Investment Act of 2018. Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand led Senate colleagues in a letter to appropriators calling for robust funding for the program in order to address the challenges faced by rural communities and help them rebuild a thriving economy. The coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis have caused already struggling rural communities to lose valuable resources as local revenues are slashed, tourism slows, and main-street businesses close. The RISE program will provide transformative, long term investments to accelerate job growth in rural, low-income areas and will help entrepreneurs, local leaders, investment organizations, and training providers position their regions to be competitive and rebuild a strong local economy.
“Rural communities often operate on very thin margins and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these already vast economic challenges,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The RISE grant program will provide essential federal dollars to help rebuild diminished rural economies with a local, hands-on approach that will create new job opportunities and spur economic development. I’m proud to deliver these long term investments for New York’s rural communities in the recently passed bipartisan spending package.”
America’s rural communities make significant contributions to the nation’s economic strength as a main source of food, energy, manufacturing, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries. This $5 million in grant funding will provide transformative investments that can meet multiple needs of rural communities, including developing innovation centers to serve as space for mixed-use housing, business development, and training. The funding will also help redevelop community downtowns with investments in infrastructure upgrades required to support new business growth and the deployment of high-speed broadband service. This hands-on, responsive approach will empower people across rural America to create new jobs and businesses, build vibrant neighborhoods, and preserve the special character of their communities.
Full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Merkley,
We write to ask for your support of the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program authorized by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 as you develop the fiscal year (FY) 2021 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. Specifically, we request that you include robust funding for continued implementation of this program.
America’s small communities and rural regions make significant contributions to the nation’s economic strength and quality of life. Rural America is the source of our food, produces much of the nation’s energy, and is central to the success of our nation’s manufacturing, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries, among others. Despite these contributions, many rural communities face significant economic challenges. In fact, rural counties make up the vast majority of the nation’s persistent poor areas, and much of rural America has yet to fully recover from the Great Recession. From 2010 to 2014, the majority of rural counties saw more businesses close than open during the economic recovery period.
While rural communities struggle with business closures and diminishing tax bases, they are confronted with a frustrating federal response that too often presents more questions than answers on what resources, options, and opportunities are available to turn around their economy. To most effectively support rural communities, the federal government needs to move away from a siloed, top-down approach and instead provide flexible and responsive investments to locally-driven efforts.
With bipartisan support and broad stakeholder input, the RISE grant program was developed and passed into law as part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill. This program focuses on addressing these challenges and positioning rural America for success in today’s economy. This program will award grants of $500,000 to $2 million each to locally-driven “rural jobs accelerator partnerships” made up of entrepreneurs, local leaders, investment organizations, and training providers to improve their local economy and position their region to be more competitive. This funding will be flexible and provide transformative investments that can meet multiple needs of rural communities, including developing innovation centers to serve as space for mixed-use housing, business development, training, and co-working opportunities, helping redevelop community downtowns, and investing in infrastructure upgrades required to support new business growth, including the deployment of high-speed broadband service.
An interagency support team will also work with each rural jobs accelerator to close funding gaps, cut red tape, share knowledge on what is working in other communities, and build relationships so that local leaders know whom to call with questions. This hands-on, responsive approach will empower people across rural America to create new jobs and businesses, build vibrant neighborhoods, and preserve the special character of their communities.
Rural America is full of the ideas and energy to pivot from economic challenge and decline toward innovation and prosperity. What is needed is a national commitment to supporting the efforts of rural entrepreneurs and local leaders to build stronger economies. To achieve this, we urge the committee to provide robust funding in the FY2021 appropriations bill for USDA’s RISE grant program.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.