New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report on September 25 spotlighting the ongoing challenges and opportunities in ten rural counties within the state.
The counties, representative of rural New York, are grappling with demographic shifts, economic declines, and limited access to essential services like healthcare and broadband. DiNapoli’s analysis contrasts the conditions in Allegany, Chenango, Delaware, Essex, Greene, Hamilton, Lewis, Schuyler, Sullivan, and Wyoming counties to the overall state, showing notable disparities in population growth, labor force stability, and quality of living.
The studied counties displayed a collective population decline of 3.4%, contrasting with the state’s overall growth of 4.2% between 2011 and 2021. The labor force in these rural regions also diminished by 13,707 workers, shedding 2,580 jobs, whereas New York witnessed an addition of 14,390 workers and 430,738 jobs in the same duration. Besides demographic and economic discrepancies, the report outlined challenges in housing availability, healthcare accessibility, and disparities in broadband services, emphasizing the rural counties’ struggle with high housing vacancy rates and diminishing housing units.
Despite the detailed challenges, DiNapoli stressed the potential growth and revitalization opportunities in these areas, spurred by shifts in remote work and migration trends away from urban centers. The report underscores the importance of addressing the unique needs of rural areas, leveraging local strengths, enhancing tourism, and utilizing technology to promote economic stability and growth. The state and federal policies, including new funding programs like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and the Rural Partners Network, are geared toward fostering enhanced connectivity and broader service access, aiming to balance the playing field for these rural communities.
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