According to estimates from the American Community Survey, the nonmetro poverty rate was 15.4 percent in 2019, compared to 11.9 percent in metro areas. In addition to a significant portion of the rural population living below the poverty line, many rural families lack access to quality schools, affordable, quality health care, and adequate job opportunities.
Many rural communities that have long been dependent on a single resource or on one company have suffered because the company has shut down or moved away. This situation has left many communities with a high unemployment rate and unemployed workers in need of workforce development training. State policymakers should consider funding and investment opportunities to attract rural educators, rural medical providers, sustainable jobs, and workforce development strategies that promote employment opportunities and economic sustainability for rural areas.
- Federal: Implement the 10-20-30 approach to future funding proposals. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s proposal would require agencies to invest at least ten percent of appropriated programmatic funds in persistent poverty counties where 20 percent or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years. Eighty-six percent of persistent poverty counties have entirely rural populations. While some federal funding programs use this practice, passing Clyburn’s Targeting Resources to Communities in Need Act of 2021-2022 would expand its use across agencies.
- Federal: Enact reforms to treat Tribal governments with equality and fairness. Provide funding for Tribal members to obtain better access to federal programs and increase available resources for Tribal infrastructure and economic development, consistent with the federal trust and treaty responsibility. This includes enacting reforms to explicitly include Tribal parity in all aspects of the Federal Farm Bill and expanding opportunities for Tribal communities to self-govern.
The American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure and Jobs Act invested over $31 billion to ensure Tribal communities have the tools to thrive, including land and water protections as well as high-speed internet.
- State: Include tribal communities in state resource-based decision making.
- State: Work with tribal communities to help them access federal funds and resources.
- State: Prioritize state funding investments for rural communities.
Alabama (AL 2022 HB 135) is working toward a budget that appropriates state funds to a variety of rural resources, including rural workforce development, rural products marketing, and rural educator recruitment.
In Florida (FL 2020 SB 426), the legislature modified funding requirements of the Regional Rural Development grants program to require that grant recipients serve or be located in a rural area of opportunity.
In Washington, lawmakers recently right-sized the state’s tax code when they enacted (2021 WA SB 5096), a first-of-its-kind excise tax on capital gains in excess of $250,000. Washington legislators also provided tax relief to lower-income families by funding the state Working Families Tax Credit (2021 WA HB 1297) and expanding it to include immigrant taxpayers who are excluded from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).