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When asked what feedback he’s getting from rural areas on the proposed federal stimulus package, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, didn’t hesitate. Rural water means something to his constituents, said the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee on a conference call with the Daily Yonder and other media. “As I talk to people in rural Iowa, rural communities, they see the need for rural water,” Harkin said.

The Senate compromise version of the stimulus package passed today retains the proposed $1.375 billion for rural water and waste disposal that would be administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A House-passed version provided for $1.5 billion in rural water and waste disposal through the stimulus. More money could flow to rural projects through Environmental Protection Agency programs Harkin said could get a boost from the stimulus.

Harkin said “there’s an immense backlog” of rural water projects. “A lot of these are ready,” Harkin said. “Those are jobs right now.” In 2008 there were $2.4 billion in requests for water and waste loans and almost $1 billion for grants that went unfunded, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Douglas Burns

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