Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress published a new, groundbreaking report, “The Path to Rural Resilience in America,” as the capstone in a series of analyses examining the current state of rural America, its challenges, its strengths, its diversity, and a path forward.
For decades, rural America has been neglected by federal policymakers. Large corporations in the energy, agricultural, and other industries have been allowed to extract rural America’s natural resources largely for the benefit of distant shareholders, rather than rural Americans themselves. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, much of rural America had not recovered from the Great Recession, while the country as a whole enjoyed a decade of economic growth.
The new report shows the uneven opportunity in rural America and the structural racism that contributes to it. It then examines the history of rural policy and its failure to rise to meet the challenges of the modern economy.
The report concludes with several central policy recommendations:
- Create a Rural Opportunity Administration (ROA), housed within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would be tasked with advancing opportunity, promoting economic vitality, and fighting poverty in rural places.
- Through the newly created ROA, launch a participatory grantmaking program that would facilitate an asset-based approach to rural development.
- Establish a rural counterpart to the Community Development Block Grant to ensure that local governments have the funds they need to continue providing essential services.
- Raise federal labor standards–including the minimum wage, collective bargaining protections, and health and safety regulations—to ensure that workers have respect on the job regardless of where they live.
“Every couple years, rural America becomes a favorite talking point for politicians and pundits in the run-up to elections. But rural America, in all its diversity, is little understood by people who don’t live there and suffers from systematic neglect between election cycles,” said Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress. “In this report we’ve outlined three bold policy ideas to reinvigorate rural development and forge significant structural change in rural communities throughout the United States. We believe that with meaningful federal partnerships and policies, rural Americans can build a vibrant future for themselves and for their communities.”
Read the report: “The Path to Rural Resilience in America” by Olugbenga Ajilore and Zoe Willingham.
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