Legislation in Congress aims to provide money to rural communities in New York and across the U.S. The Rebuild Rural America Act would allocate $50-billion to make it easier for rural areas to access federal grant money for a slew of different projects. In New York, this could mean providing funds for counties with aging housing stock, to make it more accessible for seniors or people with limited mobility.
Maranda Saling, government affairs and policy manager with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, said the bill’s structure could provide economic opportunities for rural communities.
“It’s going to be, I believe, fairly broad, which is the idea – for flexible capacity, that’s something that we’re always talking about,” Saling explained. “So, for different communities it’s going to look like different things. And that’s something that’s really important to us, so we don’t come in and tell communities what’s right for them.”
She added the funds could be used to update failing infrastructure, and for water quality testing, specifically for P-FAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” A recent U.S. Geological Survey study finds 45% of the nation’s tap water contains at least one of these chemicals. The Senate version of the bill was introduced by New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand. It is currently in the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.
Though it is still too early to say whether the Rebuild Rural America Act will pass, Saling said it could work hand in hand with the Inflation Reduction Act and the 2023 Farm Bill, particularly with the multiyear funding commitments.
“If we are able to get the bill passed in its current text with the multiyear funding, it allows for planning, it allows for more purposeful intention,” she said. “And that multiyear relationship that creates more trust with our communities only creates a better relationship and better use of those funds.”
The 2023 Farm Bill could be funded at a little over $1.5-trillion. That would be a $640-billion increase in spending, primarily driven by larger outlays for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or SNAP program.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.