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Rural Housing Blog



NRHC Member Greystone Affordable Development Celebrates Grand Reopening of 18 Section 515 Properties in Kentucky

Posted by on Jun 15, 2017 in Section 515, Spotlight | 0 comments

Greystone Affordable Development, an affordable housing development company and a member of the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC), and Winterwood, Inc., a property management company, recently celebrated the reopening of 18 newly-renovated affordable housing communities in Kentucky. All of the properties were financed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Section 515 program and ranged from 12 to 60 units per property.

In total, 563 units located in 14 counties were included in the recapitalization and rehabilitation project, which was completed in just 12 months. Greystone worked with Winterwood, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (both the Washington, D.C. and Kentucky State Offices), the Kentucky Housing Corporation, and the Community Affordable Housing Equity Corporation to secure the necessary financing, which totaled $65 million. Rural Development’s Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization Program was essential to the project, and contributed to a $22 rent decrease per unit.

Nearly half of the rehabilitated units (253 units) used energy incentives and rebates through the Louisville Gas and Electric Company and the Kentucky Utilities Company, increasing the energy efficiency of these units by 30 percent.

Greystone Affordable Development, an affiliate of Greystone & Co., Inc., is a leader in the development, recapitalization, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable rural rental housing. Including the recently completed Kentucky project, Greystone has managed the preservation and rehabilitation of over 8,200 rental units and has another 5,800 in various stages of completion.

For more information about the project and the grand opening, please see Greystone’s press release.

Nearly 600 Rural Organizations Signify Opposition to White House Proposal for USDA Reorganization and Budget Request in Advance of Congressional Hearing

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Budget, Key Issues, Resources | 0 comments

Rural Organizations from across the country wrote to Congress, voicing opposition to the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development and funding for rural development programs.

Washington, D.C.—June 12, 2017— Today, nearly 600 organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The letter also lamented draconian cuts to rural development programs in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget request that would severely impact people from economically distressed rural communities. Signatures came from organizations located all around the country, and included community development organizations; nonprofit housing developers; state and national trade associations; farmer and agriculture cooperatives; affordable housing organizations; city governments; universities; and tribal governments.

“Rural Development has a proven track record of success in providing targeted support in the form of technical assistance grants and direct financial assistance to America’s hardworking rural families,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition. “Even so, rural Americans still face significant challenges to economic prosperity.”

Rural communities have higher poverty rates and higher rates of unemployment when compared to big cities and suburbs. The families living in these areas also face higher incidences of substandard housing and rent overburden. In addition, over 90 percent of the water systems with a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act are small systems with 3,300 or fewer users.

The FY 2018 Budget request included substantial cuts – or complete eliminations – to almost all of the programs within the Rural Development mission area. Overall in terms of Budget Authority current Rural Development programs is cut buy $867 million or 31 percent. Specifically, the Rural Business programs and the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, as well as Rural Water and Wastewater Loans and Grants are completely eliminated. In addition, virtually every direct loan or grant program under the Rural Housing Service, including the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, the Section 502 Direct loan program, and the Section 515 Multifamily Housing Loan program, are eliminated as well.

The USDA reorganization plan, announced in early May, would eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development – the only subcabinet position focused exclusively on assisting low-income rural and farming communities. The proposal claims that this elimination will “elevate” the Rural Development mission area by reporting directly to the USDA Secretary, however the Administration’s FY 2018 Budget request suggests otherwise.

“By eliminating the Under Secretary for Rural Development and eliminating funding for two dozen housing and rural development programs and rescissions for Fiscal Year 2017 as well—the Administration is clearly turning its back on rural families and the communities where they live,” Rapoza said.

“If the Budget request is approved and the reorganization proposal moves forward rural communities will not receive the quality of assistance and resources needed to prosper,” Rapoza said. “This letter sends a message to Members of Congress that if they intend to meet rural communities’ needs, a strong Rural Development mission area is required.”

The letter was circulated by the National Rural Housing Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. It has been shared with the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees.

For more information about rural housing and community development, please visit the National Rural Housing Coalition’s webpage.

To view the Press Release on PR Newswire, please click here.

President Trump Signs Executive Order on Prosperity for Rural America

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Key Issues | 0 comments

On April 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America.”

The executive order includes seven sections. Section 1 outlines the importance of having a secure and affordable food, fiber, and forestry supply for the country, and that the promoting rural communities is in the national interest. Section 1 also states that it is in the country’s interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not hamper food, agricultural production, and job creation in rural communities.

Section 2 calls for the creation of the “Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity,” which will be funded and administratively supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as permitted by law and appropriations. Section 3 details the membership of the task force. The USDA Secretary will serve as the Chair.

Section 4 provides the purpose of functions of the task force. The task force is directed to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote rural America. There are 13 general issues that are identified in the executive order. These include advancing the adoption innovative technology for agriculture production and sustainable rural development, expanding educational opportunities in rural areas, empowering state and local agencies to tailor their rural economic development and agriculture programs to meet their region’s need, promote the preservation of family farms and agribusinesses, and improve food safety, among others.

The remaining sections are administrative in nature, with Section 5 directing the USDA Secretary to submit a report to the President within 180 days on the task force’s recommendations on policy or legislative changes. Section 6 revokes the executive order signed by President Obama establishing the White House Rural Council. Section 7 provides that the executive order does not affect the existing authority of any department or agency, current law, or confer any new rights or benefits.

While the task force is directed to identify changes in policy or law that will “promote . . . economic development, . . . infrastructure improvements, . . . and quality of life” and the executive order includes 13 enumerated areas of focus, notably absent is any explicit directive on – or reference to –   rural housing and water and wastewater services. There is no mention of housing or homeownership or rental housing, and the only reference to “water” relates to water users’ private property rights.

Additionally, although the executive order states that the task force should “respect the unique circumstances of small businesses that serve rural communities,” the President’s skinny budget for 2018 calls for the elimination of the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS). The RBCS offers programs that support business growth development and job training opportunities for rural Americans by partnering with private sector local lenders and community based organizations to provide much needed capital in rural areas. RCBS also has several cooperative programs to help rural residents develop ways to create new systems to distribute their products and supplies and improve existing systems through education and technical assistance.

Addressing the economic and community development needs of rural America will require a holistic approach. And while the task force is directed to “remove barriers to economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America,” the enumerated policy points focus almost entirely on agricultural production and agribusiness. A “reliable workforce” for those rural businesses must have access to safe, clean, and affordable housing, water systems, and community facilities.

National Rural Housing Coalition Releases 2017 Impact Report

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Key Issues, Resources, Spotlight | 0 comments

On Tuesday, April 4, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) released its 2017 Impact Report. The report, which was funded through the generous contribution of Capital One, included the findings from the 2017 Impact Survey as well as the success stories from 23 rural housing organizations.

The purpose of the Impact Report is to inform policy makers and the public of the broad economic and human impact of nonprofit housing organizations – and the programs that they utilize. The survey asked organizations to respond to seven categories, including homeownership activities, rental housing activities, and clean water and sewer activities. In addition, the survey also asked for organizations that provide housing counseling, technical assistance, or are Community Development Financial Institutions, Community Development Corporations or Intermediaries to respond on their activities. The survey analyzed data from 104 organization of their activity in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

In FY 2016, the 104 responding nonprofit housing organizations helped low-income families and communities secure $1 billion in financing to build, purchase, preserve, or rehabilitate 6,505 units of affordable housing and improved access to rural water and sewer systems for 138,115 of families. This resulted in the creation of 13,920 jobs, over $816.43 million generated income, and $442.2 million in tax revenue.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • 84 organizations assisted 3,139 families in rural communities with rehabilitating, constructing, or purchasing their homes. Further, there were 24,104 families on the waiting lists of 26 organizations.
  • 59 organizations helped 378 families participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. These families contributed over $6.885 million in sweat equity by assisting each other in the construction of their homes – averaging $18,215 per family.
  • 22 organizations developed, constructed, preserved, or rehabilitated 2,859 rental housing units.
  • 4 organizations secured over $92 million in financing for 106 water or sewer projects for construction of new systems, repairing or replacing existing systems, consolidating systems, or addressing regulatory compliance issues and provided technical assistance on 97 projects, totaling some $64.35 million.

NRHC presented the findings from the Report at a briefing on the Hill in the Capitol Visitor Center on the evening of April 4. In addition to the findings from the briefing, five organizations presented on case studies that are included in the report. Their presentations are provided below.

 

Marty Miller, the Executive Director of the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing in Yakima, WA, presented on the Esperanza Development, which serves the farmworker community Mattawa, WA. This project was funded by USDA Section 514 and 516 farmworker housing programs, as well as over $1 million in additional funding from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund.

Esperanza Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

Julie Bornstein, the Executive Director of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, presented on the Los Jardines community. This community, located in Coachella, CA, is made up of 205 single-family homes constructed through the Mutual Self-Help Housing program. The homeowners worked together in groups of 10 to 12 families for 10 to 12 months for 40 hours per week to build their homes, earning sweat equity equivalent to a down payment in the process.

Los Jardines Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

 

Karen Speakman, the Deputy Director of NCALL Research, Inc., presented on the Chandler Heights II preservation project, in Seaford, DE. The 24 unit property was constructed in 1992 with a Section 515 Loan. The rental units needed significant overhaul due to water damage, poor drainage, and other issues. Today, in addition to new roofs, siding, and other upgrades, Chandler Heights II has 4 new 1 bedroom units and a handicap accessible playground.

Chandler Heights II Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

Selvin McGahee, the Executive Director of Florida Non-Profit Housing, Inc., presented on the Casa San Juan Bosco II development. After Hurricane Charley devastated Desoto County, FL, the Catholic Charities and Diocese of Venice reached out to FNPH to address the loss of housing in the area. Using USDA Section 514 and 516 and financing from the Florida Housing Finance Agency, FNPH developed 53 single-family rental homes for farmworkers and their families.

Casa San Juan Bosco II Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

 

Kathy Tyler, Housing Services Director at Motivation Education & Training, Inc., presented on a single-family housing rehab project. The home was owned by a farmworker family made up of parents and two children. The home had holes in the walls and a dirt floor. Construction was provided by farmworker construction trainees enrolled in the Southwest Texas Junior College and funding from the Department of Labor-National Farmworker Jobs Program, HUD and USDA, as well as other state and local sources.

Farmworker Home Rehab Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

Infrastructure Includes Substandard Housing

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in Key Issues, Spotlight | 0 comments

The lack of adequate water and waste disposal systems is a major infrastructure need of rural America and it is directly link to another pressing infrastructure need – substandard housing.

Most violations of federal drinking water standards are made by small communities with limited resources to dedicate to compliance.  Small and rural drinking water systems constitute nearly 85 percent of the 53,000 community water systems in America. The 2013 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Needs Assessment indicated a national need of $64.5 billion for small community water systems.[1] This represents 17.4 percent of total national need. The lack of adequate water and waste water systems has a direct impact on the quality of housing. The American Community Survey found that almost 630,000 occupied households in the country lack complete plumbing facilities – meaning they do not have one of the following: a toilet, tub, shower or running water.

President Trump proposed to triple funding for EPA’s Safe Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), which would make $6 billion available. However while approximately 96 percent of all health-based violations occur in systems serving a population of less than 10,000, less than a third of the SRF outlays are directed at these same small systems. Thus, this proposal would not meet the needs of America’s small towns.

The National Rural Housing Coalition has recommended that 20 percent of the new proposed level of funding for EPA’s SRFs be transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use in its water and waste disposal loan and grant program and Sections 504 and 533 repair programs. USDA’s Water and Sewer loan and grant financing program is a key component of economic development in rural America.  The agency boasts a portfolio of more than 18,000 active water/sewer loans, more than 19 million rural residents served, and a delinquency rate of just 0.18 percent.  USDA is better equipped to address rural community facilities needs than state SRFs.

With the USDA Section 504 Loan and Grant program and the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant program, rural communities have been able to address substandard housing needs that stem from a lack of adequate plumbing. These programs can provide critical assistance to shore up this infrastructure. For example, with an expanded HPG grant of $400,000 and $370,000 in leveraged funds, Self-Help Enterprises in California provided basic health and safety improvements and drill on-site water wells for 23 families in the drought-ravaged San Joaquin Valley.

The bottom line is that the Administration and Congress should take a holistic approach to addressing America’s infrastructure needs, and include funding for housing and water/wastewater systems in any infrastructure package.

This article is the sixth in a blog series of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding that ties housing to infrastructure. To read the other blog posts, please click here.

[1] Defined as serving 3,300 and fewer persons.

Advocacy Tools

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Resources | 0 comments

SHE_Self Help_KidsUse NRHC’s Advocacy Tools to strengthen your advocacy efforts and make your voice heard on Capitol Hill. Learn how to build relationships with your Senators, Representatives, Local Media, and members of your community.

Toolkits

  • Making the Most of Congress’ Time At Home: In-District Advocacy. Learn how to best engage with your Senators and Representatives while they are at home in your district, whether by inviting them to visit your organization, meeting one-on-one, or partnering with other local organizations to host a Town Hall meeting.
  • Local and Social Media 101.  Learn how to use social media to build and sustain strong relationships with your Senators and Representatives by using local media and social media. This toolkit provides important tips on pitching news stories to your local media, publishing an op-ed, and using social media.
  • Creating a Social Media Strategy 102. Learn how to create a social media strategy, regardless of your organization’s available resources. This toolkit was made possible through the generous support of Capital One.

Webinars

Local Case Studies

Smithsonian Magazine Recognizes Self-Help Enterprises’ Dedication to Helping America’s Working Poor

Posted by on Dec 2, 2016 in Farmworker Housing, Poverty, Spotlight | 0 comments

In an article published in the December 2016 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, author Dale Maharidge chronicled the struggles that many of America’s working poor, including high poverty rates, housing affordability issues and food-scarcity.  While just over 43 million people, or 13.5 percent of the population, live below the poverty line ($11,880) in the United States, over 31 percent – over 101 million – of Americans are considered “low-income,” meaning they make no more than $48,600 for a family of four or $23,760 for a single person.  These families’ low-incomes means that affording safe housing is frequently an issue, particularly because of the ever-increasing cost of housing.

A portion of the article is dedicated to America’s farmworkers.  Even though these people work long, back-breaking shifts, due in part to the seasonal nature of farming crops, these families often face great difficulty in affording basic necessities – like a safe place to call home and decent food – even while working full-time.

In California’s Central Valley, where Self-Help Enterprises, Inc. works, farms growing 250 different crops produce a fourth of the nation’s food.  The article noted that since SHE was founded in 1965, it has helped family participants create over 6,200 homes in the region through the self-help housing program, which allows participants to use “sweat equity” in place of a down payment. By contributing at least 40 hours a week over the roughly one-year construction period, the families complete 65 percent of the labor in their homes with the help of their future neighbors.

National Rural Housing Coalition Presents on the Impact of the Election on Rural Housing

Posted by on Nov 30, 2016 in Spotlight | 0 comments

On November 30, 2016, Bob Rapoza presented at the Housing Assistance Council 2016 Rural Housing Conference in Washington, D.C..  The National Rural Housing Coalition Plenary session included a discussion on what the results of the 2016 Presidential election mean for rural housing.

To view the presentation materials, please click here for the PowerPoint and here for the NRHC Transition Team paper.

Housing Experts Chart Course to Preserve Affordable Rural Rental Housing

Posted by on Oct 7, 2016 in Resources, Spotlight | 0 comments

National Rural Housing Coalition convenes leaders in Affordable Rental Housing to Discuss Ways to Stem Increasing Shortages in Rural America and Prepare Recommendations for Legislators

 

USDA Rural Housing experts, including Under Secretary Lisa Mensah, Administrator Tony Hernandez and Deputy Administrator David Lipsetz discuss USDA’s multifamily housing programs with moderator Eileen Fitzgerald, President and CEO of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future.

Washington, D.C.— On October 4-5, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) convened leaders from the rural housing community to evaluate and prepare recommendations that will ensure affordable rental housing options remain available to low- and very low-income residents. The purpose of the conference, which was sponsored by PNC Bank, was to gather feedback from the community and confer on data shared by staff from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing programs. Using this information, NRHC will release a detailed paper on the state of affordable rental housing in rural communities.

“While there were notable investments made several decades ago for the production and maintenance of affordable, rural rental housing, that federal commitment has not kept pace with the need in recent years,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC. “This is significant because USDA’s current preservation efforts do not appear to be enough to sustain its rental housing portfolio, which is essential to providing clean, decent, and affordable housing for low-income residents in Rural America.”

USDA rental housing is frequently the only affordable rental housing available in rural communities. The average income for tenants is $12,729 annually, many (around 44 percent) are elderly or persons with disabilities and 70.9 percent are female headed households. USDA estimates that $5.596 billion in additional funding is needed over the next 20 years to preserve USDA’s rental housing portfolio. Renovation of these developments is particularly important because USDA no longer provides loans for the financing of new rental housing developments in rural America.

Larry Anderson, Vice President of Rural Housing Preservation Associates, and Richard Price, a Partner at NixonPeabody, discuss the current rural rental housing stock with moderator Tom Collishaw, President and CEO of Self-Help Enterprises.

Larry Anderson, Vice President of Rural Housing Preservation Associates, and Richard Price, a Partner at NixonPeabody, discuss the current rural rental housing stock with moderator Tom Collishaw, President and CEO of Self-Help Enterprises.

In addition, there is a rising tide of USDA mortgages coming to the end of their terms. When a USDA mortgage ends—whether it is due to prepayment or mortgage maturity—the property loses rental assistance eligibility, which provides a deep subsidy to very low income households.  As a result, an increasing number of very low-income households left with few or no alternatives for affordable, decent housing options.

While the need for renovation and refinancing of the USDA multifamily housing portfolio is great, several organizations have taken advantage of opportunities to acquire, improve the quality of and maintain the affordability of these properties. By working with USDA and state housing finance agencies, as well as combining multiple sources of public and private funds, housing advocates like Greystone Affordable Housing Initiatives and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership have succeeded in preserving USDA’s rural rental homes. NRHC will work with USDA and members of Congress to promote these successful preservation strategies and identify obstacles to success to ensure that affordable rental housing in rural communities is preserved.

“Congress and various Administrations have underfunded efforts to preserve the physical and financial condition of USDA’s investment. As a result, none of the properties in USDA’s portfolio have the capital needed to meet long-term operational costs,” said Rapoza. “NRHC will continue to advocate for the funding and policies necessary to meet the affordable housing needs or rural people and families.”

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Rick Goodemann, Executive Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership, a NRHC Member, explains the approach his organization has used to address the need for preserving rental housing in rural communities.

Rick Goodemann, Executive Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership, a NRHC Member, explains the approach his organization has used to address the need for preserving rental housing in rural communities.

About Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loans

For over 50 years, Section 515 loans have been used to improve the quality of affordable rental housing for low-income families in rural America. Today, nearly 400,000 rural families live in housing financed with low-cost Section 515 loans.

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This press release was published on PR Newswire on October 6, 2016 and can be found here.

To view the PowerPoint presentation from conference, please click here.

Income, Poverty and Population in Rural America

Posted by on Sep 16, 2016 in Poverty, Spotlight | 0 comments

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty and income in America was released on September 13, 2016.

The findings of this report have been highlighted by many sources as an example of the economic growth experienced in many communities in recent years, noting that the median household income increased 5.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, the fastest increase on record.  For example, the White House Blog stated that the “report from the Census Bureau shows the remarkable progress that American families have made as the recovery continues to strengthen. . . . Income grew for households across the income distribution, with the fastest growth among lower- and middle-income households.”

While statements like this are certainly supported by the findings of the Census report, they do not provide a complete picture as to where this growth has occurred and the economic state of communities all around the country.  Specifically, within metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), income levels rose six percent (7.3 percent for city dwellers, 4 percent for suburban and exurban residents).  Alternatively, the income levels for rural communities (including micropolitan statistical areas and areas outside of MSAs and micropolitan areas) declined by 2 percent.

A 2015 CAP report, “The Uneven Housing Recovery,” found that while many Americans have recovered from the economic recession, those that have not primarily reside in rural and nonmetropolitan areas.  The improved economies in metropolitan areas is related to growing populations and strengthening labor markets, which have aided these areas’ recovery from the recession.

Differentiated from metropolitan counties, small rural communities, which have not experienced the same level of recovery, have seen shrinking populations.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) found that between 2010 and 2015 the population of rural communities dropped 33,000 per year from 2010-2014 and 4,000 in 2015.  Comparatively, between 2010 and 2014, the urban population increased by more than two million people each year.

Decreasing populations in rural communities present unique challenges, and are a further issue impeding economic growth for these areas.  For example, the Census report found that poverty rates overall declined 1.2 percent from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015.  As with the Census report’s findings on income, declining poverty overall does not mean poverty has not increased in certain communities.

From 2014 to 2015, the actual number of rural Americans living in poverty declined from around 8.2 million to 7.4 million.   However, the decline in the number of people living in rural poverty was primarily due to out-migration – not improved economic conditions. Thus, for this same time period, the Census report found that the poverty rate for rural areas actually increased, albeit slightly (+0.2). The point is there was not any progress in reducing economic distress in rural areas.

The 2015 CAP report looked at the difference levels of recovery experienced by counties across the country.  The report found that most “struggling” counties are located in nonmetropolitan and rural areas.  These counties are characterized in the report as, at best, “stagnant” and more often “slipping” or sinking.”

Since 2009, slipping counties have experienced slow population growth and declining labor participation, and nearly 18 percent of the population in these areas live in poverty.  While homeownership is prevalent and renting is less common in slipping counties, the percentage of households who are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, is much higher for renters than homeowners. Additionally, as housing prices have increased (from about 11 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2014, so too have vacancy rates, which were at percent in 2014.

Sinking counties have fared the worst in terms of recovery from the economic recession.  In addition to higher unemployment rates than other counties, the labor force has declined since 2009 and since 2013, job growth has stalled.  New construction of housing has been declining since 2012, and vacancy rates between 2010 and 2014 remained stagnant.

The Census report shows that many communities’ across the country are recovering from the economic recession.  However, a closer look at the Census report, as well as other recent research on poverty, homeownership and employment demonstrates that this recovery is not spread equally with rural communities.  As the discussion on economic growth and recovery continues, policy makers should ensure that the need of rural Americans is not left out of the conversation.