Press Release

In Watertown, Gillibrand Announces Major Broadband Investment For The North Country And Legislation To Invest $50 Billion In Rural Economic Development

Jun 20, 2023

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with local leaders at the Watertown Family YMCA to announce her Rebuild Rural America Act, legislation that would invest $50 billion in rural economic development, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and small businesses. The bill would address the challenges specific to rural America and make it easier for rural communities to access federal funding and other resources.

Gillibrand also highlighted a major federal investment she helped to secure that will bring expanded broadband access to the North Country. The Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) is set to receive $14.5+ million in funding to expand nearly 350 miles of broadband fibers across Upstate NY and help thousands of families access reliable, affordable high-speed internet.

New York’s rural communities face a variety of unique challenges, but too often, the federal government has failed to adequately support them,” said Senator Gillibrand. “My Rebuild Rural America Act will invest $50 billion into rural America to help communities build schools, expand child care access, catalyze private investment, train workers for in-demand jobs, and bolster critical infrastructure. I look forward to getting this legislation passed in the Farm Bill this year.” 

“Rural communities are typically quite adept a pooling limited resources to address shared challenges. They have to be,” said David J. Zembiec, CEO of Jefferson County Economic Development. “This program makes a difference not only by providing funds to support such efforts exponentially more productive; but it does so with the long view, providing five years of renewable funding. This will enable regional projects that provide lasting, meaningful progress on the rural development issues of highest priority to these consortiums.”

“The flexible block grants proposed in Senator Gillibrand’s Rebuild Rural America Act will allow rural regions to come together and prioritize development that matters in their communities,” said Denise Young, CEO, Watertown Family YMCA. “This type of funding promotes partnerships and creates growth. Partnership and federal investment is what made the new YMCA Community and Aquatics Center possible and this Act will enable other rural development across our region.” 

“The funding secured through the NTIA is the catalyst for the construction of 344 miles of new middle mile fiber optic cable which will enable broadband service to approximately 2,500 unserved residences and 287 community anchor institutions in northern New York,” said Carl E. Farone, Jr., Executive Director of the Development Authority of the North Country. “Without the partnership with National Grid and funding from NTIA, this project would not be possible. I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for her support in securing this critical grant funding for northern New York.”

“Development of North Country (DANC) based in Watertown, NY is one of 36 recipients of the Middle Mile program from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Josh Deixler, Broadband Program Officer from National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) assigned to Development of North Country (DANC) Middle Mile project. “Creating regional and national Internet networks is essential if we’re going to bring affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service to everyone. Middle Mile infrastructure brings capacity to our local networks by increasing the amount of data that can flow between networks. This investment is a force-multiplier in creating Internet infrastructure capable of deploying connections directly to households, businesses and schools.” 

Specifically, the Rebuild Rural America Act would:

  1. Establish a Rural Future Partnership Fund that would create a $50 billion block grant program for long-term rural economic development projects, including investments in child care centers, public schools, libraries, community centers, health care providers, workforce development programs, emergency preparedness programs, main street revitalization programs, and water and sewer facilities, among others. In contrast with existing funding opportunities, which often require arduous applications that recipients must reapply through each year, the fund would provide grantees with 5 years of guaranteed funding. This streamlined process would allow communities to make longer-term investments and would ease administrative burdens on local governments.
  2. Make it easier for rural communities to access federal funds and other resources by establishing a USDA Rural Innovation and Partnership Administration. This administration would work directly with local leaders to provide information on available federal resources, technical assistance, and cutting-edge data to help them craft and implement rural revitalization plans to make government helpful, not a hassle.
  3. Fight population loss from rural areas by launching the Rural Future Corps, a program that would place AmeriCorps Fellows in rural communities and help these communities expand critical services like child care, health, nutrition assistance, education, and job training. The program would also work to retain members in rural communities after their year of service.
  4. Empower local leaders, who know their communities best, to drive regional economic development through a new suite of national capacity and training programs to connect the expertise of national technical assistance providers with rural regions.