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With help, rural rebuild can happen

October 22, 2019 05:36 pm

As two of our leading national lawmakers so accurately pointed out Monday, not all regions in New York state are created equal, at least in the eyes of the nation’s capital.

U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., hope to bridge the gaps with new proposed legislation called the Rebuild Rural America Act.

The proposal calls for an overhaul of the current federal funding model with a $50 billion, multiyear federal grant solely for rural communities across the nation. The grant would address complex rural issues ranging from rural broadband to aging infrastructure to child care.

For too long, rural areas such as Columbia and Greene counties have been sitting on the sidelines and watching critical investment money pass through and into the hands of other communities.

In many ways, Greene and Columbia counties have fallen victim to a complex bureaucratic system that requires excessive time, energy, expert staff and finances just to apply for grants and continue to receive them. This has put rural communities without sufficient resources at a disadvantage.

In addition, federal grants, already difficult to obtain and sustain, are narrowly defined and extraordinarily rigid. The Rebuild Rural America Act would even the playing field.

A truly flexible process that can simplify grant applications would be an excellent first step, and then Gillibrand and Delgado can gather public comment before the legislation is finalized.

Official Washington likes to preach to us about opening up rural broadband, fixing aging infrastructure and better child care — issues Gillibrand and Delgado know are urgent to us in the Twin Counties. Thing is, it’s difficult to get official Washington to put its money where its intentions are.

It’s encouraging to see two of D.C.’s independent-thinking leaders attempt to open the federal piggybank and help us where we need it.