Susan Rice, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, addresses Rural Assembly Everywhere, an online conference. (Rural Assembly)

Rural America needs historic levels of public investment if it is going to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery, said Susan Rice, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council in remarks to Rural Assembly Everywhere.

“The road to [a] more prosperous future runs through rural America,” Rice said in a pre-recorded presentation to the online conference. “And the Biden administration stands ready to ensure we all reach it.”

Rural Assembly Everywhere runs Tuesday and Wednesday, April 20 and 21. The event is free.

Rice said rural America’s success is critical for nation’s economic recovery and expansion.

Susan Rice’s remarks from the first day of Rural Assembly Everywhere (via YouTube).

“You will help lead us into a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future,” Rice told participants in the conference. She said rural communities are on the front lines of renewable energy production, climate change mitigation, and innovations in manufacturing and agriculture. “Rural America is at the forefront of so many challenges and opportunities that we face as a nation.”

She said rural communities have suffered from inadequate public investment. “The president understands that rural communities have missed out on economic growth and government investment for years,” Rice said. “And he is determined to change that reality.”

Rice served under two previous Democratic presidents in senior roles, including a term as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Barack Obama.

She now manages President Biden’s domestic policy agenda, which currently focuses on gaining passage of the American Jobs Plan. The jobs plan is a $2.7 trillion proposal to invest in infrastructure like roads and bridges, renewable energy, water treatment, broadband, and energy efficiency. Rural-focused parts of the plan include tribal water systems, rural housing programs, small bridge repair, broadband, and redevelopment of manufacturing facilities.  

Rice said rural America’s difficult economic issues are long-standing and will require “generational investment.” She said that meeting the needs of rural communities is part of the administration’s commitment to equity for Americans who have not participated fully in the nation’s economy.

“The pandemic has painfully exposed the costs of inequity as marginalized communities across America have borne the heaviest burdens, but this is not some new reality,” she said. She cited historic inequities for Native Americans and improper treatment of the nation’s coal miners as examples of previous wrongs. “Indian country has long suffered with a lack of healthcare access and inadequate funding,” she said. “In Appalachia, miners who risked their lives to power our economy have seen wealth extracted from the ground, leaving nothing but a scarred landscape behind today.”

She said $5 billion of the jobs bill includes funding to help rural communities develop the skills and plans they need to tap federal funding. That funding will help rural communities “build on [their] unique assets and ambitions.”

“There’s no such thing as one size fits all” for rural communities, she said. “Whether you want to build around outdoor recreation, manufacturing, agriculture, or cultural heritage, it’s time to reimagine an inclusive rural economy where the strengths of each community are reinforced and celebrated.”

The Daily Yonder is a media partner of Rural Assembly Everywhere. The Rural Assembly is a project of the Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder.