(USDA Rural Development)

President Biden’s proposed “American Jobs Plan” contains hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for rural infrastructure, clean energy, job creation, affordable housing, high-speed internet and more. Rural advocates are overwhelmingly positive about the proposal.

Biden’s jobs plan, released Wednesday, provides more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years to repair and build new infrastructure, address climate change and fund jobs and job training programs. The plan also includes tax increases for corporations and elimination of some tax breaks for fossil fuel companies.

While details are still being released, early materials suggest a targeting of funding and support to rural America’s disinvested communities. “Unlike past major investments, the plan prioritizes addressing long-standing and persistent racial injustice,” the White House announcement states. “The plan targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities. And, the plan invests in rural communities and communities impacted by the market-based transition to clean energy,”

One new program is the $5 billion for a new Rural Partnership Program, which would help rural communities and Tribal Nations, “build on their unique assets and realize their vision for inclusive community and economic development. This program will empower rural regions by supporting locally-led planning and capacity building efforts, and providing flexible funding to meet critical needs,” according to the White House.

The proposal must be written into legislation and passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate to become law. Nearly all Republicans are expected to oppose the package, while some progressive Democrats are saying that the package is too small to meet current needs.

The Daily Yonder asked rural advocates and rural economy experts for comments about the Biden plan. Responses are below:

“We are excited that President Biden was specific about rural communities getting a fair shake in the American Jobs Plan. My favorite is the emphasis on building capacity at the local level for community and economic development efforts. And I love that there is an emphasis on building housing in rural, tribal, and underserved areas that locals can afford. It doesn’t try to address small town needs with big-city solutions. For the first time in a long time it feels like we are talking about investing in ALL of America’s places, like Hancock County, Tennessee;  Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota; and Zavala County, Texas, and other places we work where it has been a while since the federal government showed up with serious intentions to help.”

–David Lipsetz, Housing Assistance Council

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“Paying to plug and reclaim the oil and gas industry’s burgeoning inventory of orphaned and abandoned wells, infrastructure, and roads across the country is the right thing to do now. It will create tens of thousands of jobs, end emissions that damage public health and climate, and resolve the mess that has been impacting farmers, ranchers, and others who rely on the land. Reclamation is a basic cost of doing business, but our current rules act as a massive subsidy and fail to ensure that companies will get the job done. Taxpayers like me can support this necessary work, but only if it’s a one-time deal.”

–Barbara Vasquez, a member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, from Cowdrey, Colorado.

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“RCAP applauds the American Jobs Plan announced today by President Biden. We deeply appreciate the plan’s comprehensive approach to investing much needed federal resources towards our nation’s aging water infrastructure, protecting vulnerable populations, and supporting our rural and regional economies. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration and Congress to ensure this infrastructure package meets the needs of rural and tribal communities and rebuilds our nation’s infrastructure.”

–Nathan Ohle, Chief Executive Office, RCAP, Inc. (Rural Community Assistance Partnership)

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“RVCC was very happy to see a strong emphasis on rural communities, natural infrastructure, and quality jobs in the American Jobs Plan. Specifically, the proposed Rural Partnership Program would be a much-welcomed source of support to community-based nonprofits, which often play a critical bridging role between rural communities and government programs. We were also excited to see the proposed investment in a Civilian Climate Corps, which would help with fire risk reduction and restoration projects while also creating much-needed jobs in rural communities.”

–Tyson Bertone-Riggs, Policy Analyst, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition

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“Rural electrification is one of the most successful and popular programs ever accomplished through social democracy in this country, and the attention paid by the Biden Administration to issues faced by electric cooperatives shows this country’s long term dedication to improving life in rural America. The issues initially faced by utilities in electrifying rural parts of the country are largely the same today, the costs to new energy infrastructure combined with existing debt load and lack of access to tax credits have made it difficult for electric cooperatives to transition away from coal and towards renewables. With specific attention paid to removing these barriers we can assure a just transition to clean energy for electric cooperatives that puts equity, democracy, and resiliency at the center of the communities they serve.”

–Erik Hatlestad, Energy Democracy Program Director, CURE (Clean Up our River Environment)

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“With the release of this long-awaited plan, the Biden administration is taking an important, bold step toward making needed investments in the nation’s infrastructure. The president’s proposal can put Americans back to work while prioritizing the conservation and restoration of our public lands and waters, including efforts that make these landscapes more resilient and accessible to hunters and anglers. We look forward to continuing our work with the administration and Congress to establish policies and direct resources that will conserve and restore public lands and waters – while also elevating the need to address climate change and its impact on our natural resources.”

–John Gale, Conservation Director, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

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“While much of the country could use infrastructure updates, rural communities have suffered disproportionately from underfunding. Those neighborhoods contain a larger portion of crumbling roads, bridges, and dams, and they also lack internet connectivity, affordable housing, and medical resources, all of which is holding residents back and contributing to rural flight. It is really encouraging to see these issues and others included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. We sincerely hope that this will set the stage for comprehensive improvements that strengthen rural communities, build resilience to climate change, and hasten economic recovery.”

–Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union

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“From affordable and reliable high-speed broadband for every American to repairing the 10,000 most structurally deficient bridges in the country and so many other critical elements, The American Jobs Plan will improve the quality of life and the economies of countless small towns and rural communities. Rural Americans are no strangers to big, bold ideas and The American Jobs Plan includes specific provisions to invest in research and development as well as partnerships with Tribal communities that will spur innovation, create jobs, and ensure economic growth in our small towns and rural communities.”

–Matt Hildreth, Executive Director, RuralOrganizing.org

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“Revitalizing transportation and wastewater infrastructure, ensuring broadband access is achievable and affordable for every American, and investing in research and development will help to create 21st century jobs and economic growth across rural America. For example, investments in community colleges will help to create the future workforce that is integral to ensuring American products can be made from start to finish in the United States before being sold around the world. The future success of America starts with investments in all American communities. As we work to build back better after four years of the Trump presidency and a devastating pandemic, members of Congress and the Biden administration must continue to invest in communities both big and small.”

–Heidi Heitkamp, Co-founder, One Country Project, former U.S. Senator (D-ND)