Thursday, March 11, 2021

COVID relief bill: a path to recovery for rural Michigan?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2021 at 9:40 AM

click to enlarge A barn with "M Go Blue" on the roof. - WICHAI CHEVA PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Wichai Cheva Photography / Shutterstock.com
  • A barn with "M Go Blue" on the roof.

The COVID-19 relief bill headed to President Joe Biden's desk is expected to provide much-needed economic relief for Michigan's small towns and rural communities.

Matt Hildreth, executive director of RuralOrganizing.org, said the pandemic exacerbated the struggles of rural areas; many still struggling after the last recession.



And he contended the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will put the one in five Michiganders who live in rural areas on a path to recovery.

"Sometimes it can feel like our voices don't have an impact on decisions that are made in Washington that affect the lives of everyday people," Hildreth observed. "And this is one of the most impactful pieces of legislation, especially for working people, that we've seen in a generation."

Along with direct stimulus payments, extended unemployment benefits and increased food assistance, the bill will fund the expansion of vaccine distribution by rural hospitals, provide mortgage assistance for low-income rural households behind in payments, and expand broadband access and provide internet-connected devices to vulnerable students.

A new analysis predicts the American Rescue Plan will reduce the poverty rate by a third in 2021.

Hildreth explained it's because it will have a much further reach than the past two COVID-relief bills.

"Michigan can see over $10 billion in state and local allocations," Hildreth pointed out. "These are early numbers, but it's clear that Michigan is going to benefit in a very direct way."

Hildreth noted it also includes provisions to help farmers of color who have suffered massive land loss due to discrimination, and makes investments to strengthen the resiliency of the food supply.

"It's providing $1 billion to support the local food chain and making sure that the food and farm workers have access to PPE, and it provides financial support for farmers," Hildreth concluded.

The president is expected to sign the bill Friday.

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