The Rebuild Rural coalition sent a letter to the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress, asking that any future COVID-19 relief packages include funding for improved rural infrastructure. They say many rural needs have “become acute” in recent times because of the pandemic.
The letter cites media reports of parents driving their children to fast-food restaurants to access Wi-Fi and rural hospitals struggling to meet their communities’ needs. Rebuild Rural says the federal government plays an important role in helping find rural infrastructure, but federal funding alone will not fill the need.
The Rebuild Rural coalition consists of 258 organizations and it claims to collectively represent agricultural producers and rural businesses, communities, and families. “We live and work every day in rural America and deeply understand the realities these communities face in order to remain prosperous and vibrant. We also understand that rural communities’ needs are unique, oftentimes differing greatly from the realities of our urban counterparts,” the letter states. They say that clean drinking water, dependable transportation, affordable power, broadband, and research institutions are needed for the communities to thrive and for the nation’s economy.
“Our farmers and ranchers are the most efficient producers in the world. The supply chain enabling that efficiency has kept food stocked at grocery stores and markets across the country. But the ability to meet these demands depends on robust and reliable transportation infrastructure including roads, inland waterways, ports, and railways and support for the local people and institutions that will ensure this infrastructure is able to meet 21st century realities,” the letter says.
Many sectors of the government are adapting to COVID-19. The Federal Communications Commission has taken action to attempt to improve access to hard-hit tribal areas. The FCC have also moved to improve access to the Lifeline program for low-income Americans. Senators called on the Department of Agriculture has called for the release of rural broadband funding during the pandemic.