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american recovery and reinvestment act

From Recovery to Renewal: Rural America's Partner for Prosperity

Eight years ago this month, the US economy went into free fall. The crash of the housing market led to a chain of historic levels of bankruptcies and layoffs. The stock market would eventually lose 20% of its value; family incomes, investments, and home values were being crushed. Along with that, the hopes and dreams of many families.

One month after stepping into office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the greatest single investment in our nation’s economy since “The New Deal.”

Gigabit Comes to Rural Western North Carolina

At the foot of Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi River, sits the quiet town of Burnsville, North Carolina. People come and go from the textile factory, hikers visit to climb the mountain, and a colorful art scene adds flavor to the community. But in 2009 in the wake of the stock market crash, unemployment in the county rose to 11.9 percent. Burnsville’s problems were compounded by the lack of broadband Internet outside of the town-center, which limited its potential growth.

When USDA announced broadband funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Burnsville-based Country Cablevision saw an opportunity to expand and upgrade their existing Internet service in Mitchell and Yancey Counties.

USDA Investments Make Big Impact in Rural America

USDA Rural Development’s just released 2015 Progress Report highlights the many ways that the Agency’s investments in businesses and communities created jobs, provided economic opportunities and improved local infrastructure for millions of rural residents.

This report also presents the historic level of investment in rural communities since President Obama took office in 2009. Among the highlights, USDA:

Food Insecurity in U.S. Households Essentially Unchanged from 2013, but Down from 2011 High

USDA’s recently released annual report on the incidence and severity of food insecurity in American households marks 20 years of Federal statistics measuring U.S. food insecurity. This year’s report, presenting 2014 data, shows that 86.0 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning that all household members had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. In 2014, 14.0 percent of U.S. households (17.4 million households) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of financial or other resources. Food insecurity, essentially unchanged from 2013, is down from a high of 14.9 percent measured in 2011.  

Looking back over the last several years, the food insecurity rate, as expected, rose in 2008 with the recession. But the food insecurity rate has not returned to pre-recession levels. Research shows that while modest improvements in food security have accompanied declining unemployment, other changes in the economy, including higher food prices, appear to offset the effect of unemployment declines. These higher food prices, along with an increase in overall inflation, are key factors preventing food insecurity rates from any substantial decline. Another Economic Research Service (ERS) study found that, particularly for households receiving benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), higher local food prices were related to higher food insecurity.

In Kentucky, a Model for Relevance

Kentucky is well-known for its “bluegrass” lands, horses, bountiful agriculture and mountainous hills in the Appalachian region of America. A region historically challenged economically. But today, it is a region on the cusp of new economic opportunity. I recently saw first-hand how the region’s collaborative approach to economic development is unleashing a blazoned entrepreneurial spirit that serves as a model for re-establishing the relevance of rural America to our global economy.

With Support from USDA, A Michigan Town Clears the Iron from its Water

The grand opening of Williamston, Michigan’s Water Treatment Plant featured an unusual beverage as its centerpiece:  Tap water. Along with a celebratory cake and other snacks, the organizers offered up large chilled containers of Williamston’s new and improved drinking water – and residents were happy to help themselves.

Rural Wisconsin Residents to Benefit from a USDA-Funded Broadband Expansion Project

It goes without saying that broadband-high speed internet has changed the way we live our lives.  And it should . . . this is the digital age.

For many it is hard to imagine how you would get by without it.  With access to the internet, one can easily sell a car, find and apply for a job, read the news, manage a business, or work from home.  The advantages of having broadband access is that you can connect to anywhere in the world on your terms, at your convenience, when you want – that is unless you live in rural America.

ARRA Continues to Support American Families

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act continues to help families, the elderly, the unemployed and children across the country. The Act provided for an increase in monthly benefits for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. ARRA money provides participating families of four, for instance, an additional $80 each month to purchase nutritious food.