Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Help Rural Communities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), John Katko (NY-24), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and John Faso (NY-19) introduced the Rural Infrastructure Development and Partnerships Act, legislation aimed at improving the federal government’s coordination with rural communities and helping small towns receive aid in planning, designing, building, and maintaining infrastructure.
Under the Rural Infrastructure Development and Partnerships act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would establish a federal Office of Rural Partnerships tasked with providing technical assistance to rural communities with infrastructure planning, asset management, life-cycle accounting, and project oversight. The rural partnerships office would also establish an online database of information dedicated to helping communities with planning, construction and maintenance. The bill also creates a liaison position dedicated to monitoring rural community needs at key agencies. The bipartisan proposal is the first of the Problem Solvers’ Caucus Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure report proposals to be turned into bipartisan legislation.
“I hear a consistent message from local leaders in small towns throughout northwestern Connecticut: when it comes to the competition for the attention and resources of the state and federal government, they often feel left behind,” Rep. Esty said. “With a dedicated Rural Partnership Office, rural towns in Connecticut and throughout the country will have a liaison dedicated to helping plan, build, and maintain the infrastructure necessary for a thriving economy. And as advocates inside key agencies like the Department of Transportation and Department of the Interior, specialized staff will keep rural communities’ needs in mind as procedures and regulations are developed. By establishing this office, we’ll move closer to the goal of ensuring that no town is forgotten.”
“I’m proud to once again partner with Rep. Esty to improve our nation’s infrastructure,” Rep. Katko said. “In rural parts of my district in Central New York, and nationwide, our crumbling infrastructure needs are particularly apparent. This bipartisan measure will give these communities the tools that they need to plan for the long term, as well as improve and maintain infrastructure.”
“America has a 21st century economy supported by a 20th century infrastructure,” Rep. Welch said. “Potholes don’t fix themselves. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. And these challenges are heightened in rural America, where communities struggle to compete for infrastructure investments, and whole swaths of the country lack access to basic broadband. This commonsense legislation will ensure that rural communities will have access to the investments that are vital to their success.“
“Upstate New York’s infrastructure is in desperate need of investment. Our roads, bridges, and water systems are in disrepair and insufficient broadband access puts rural communities at a disadvantage in an increasingly changing economy,” Rep. Faso said. “This legislation will empower rural communities to secure more infrastructure investments in order to address their unique needs.”
“The legislation introduced today by Reps. Esty, Katko, Welch and Faso will enable small towns across the country to better access federal resources to address their growing infrastructure needs,” said Michelle Nellenbach, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Governor’s Council, Bipartisan Policy Center. “Rural communities struggle to manage, budget for and update their water and wastewater systems as well as other critical assets. BPC has called for greater technical assistance and project bundling to help rural communities compete for funding on a level playing field.
The Rural Infrastructure Development and Partnerships Act will provide them with much-needed technical assistance so they can build modern infrastructure needed to attract jobs and industry while protecting the public health and environment. I look forward to working with the bill sponsors for its prompt consideration.”