Gillibrand promotes $50B Rebuild Rural America bill in Lake Placid

Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin stands in the background while Sen. Gillibrand laughs as she prepares to give her remarks at the Lake Placid Beachhouse on Friday. The senator spoke about how impactful her addition to the U.S. Farm Bill would be. (Enterprise photo — Arthur Maiorella)

LAKE PLACID — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, Friday visited the Mirror Lake Beach House to promote her recently introduced legislation — the Rebuild Rural America Act of 2023 — to invest $50 billion in rural economic development, infrastructure, schools, hospitals and small businesses.

The bill — co-sponsored by senators Tina Smith of Minnesota and Dick Durbin of Illinois — is designed to address the challenges specific to rural America and make it easier for rural communities to access federal funding and other resources.

“New York’s rural communities face a variety of unique challenges, but too often, the federal government has failed to adequately support them,” Gillibrand said. “My Rebuild Rural America Act will invest $50 billion into rural America to help communities build schools, expand child care access, catalyze private investment, train workers for in-demand jobs, and bolster critical infrastructure. I look forward to getting this legislation passed in the Farm Bill this year.”

Joining Gillibrand in Friday’s announcement were village Mayor Art Devlin, Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake), Adirondack North Country Association Executive Director Elizabeth Cooper and Lake Placid’s Jim McKenna, who is the CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

“We applaud the Senator on her Rebuild Rural America Act. This Act is in line with the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s Strategic Plan and will greatly assist in our regional efforts,” McKenna said. “Providing multi-year funding, the Rebuild Rural America Act will allow for planning and implementation of economic development programs, downtown revitalization initiatives, public infrastructure projects thereby increasing the quality of life for our residents and the quality of place for our visitors. Thank you Senator.”

Art Devlin, the Village of Lake Placid Mayor, takes the podium as he prepares for Sen. Gillibrand’s arrival at the Lake Placid Beachhouse on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Arthur Maiorella)

Staff at ANCA — based in Saranac Lake and serving the entire Adirondack North Country Region — work directly with small businesses in rural communities throughout the year. If passed, this legislation will allow ANCA to increase its impact with the funding and tools the bill provides, according to Cooper.

“We look forward to working with Senator Gillibrand and our partners to leverage this opportunity and help entrepreneurs build strength, resilience and long-term prosperity for their businesses, their local communities, and the broader regional economy,” Cooper said.

Jones also works with municipalities, small business and organizations in the 115th Assembly District, representing all of Clinton and Franklin counties and the Essex County towns of Keene, Jay, North Elba, St. Armand and Wilmington.

“Rural areas like the North Country are working diligently to revitalize their communities,” Jones said. “Senator Gillibrand’s Rebuild Rural America Act of 2023 will build upon New York State’s efforts to support rural communities by improving the quality of life for residents. This bill will also provide funding opportunities to support economic development and address issues such as childcare desserts, affordable housing shortages, failing infrastructure and broadband buildout. We all know that the North Country is a great place to live, and this bill will help our region continue to be a place where people want to raise their families, start their careers, and retire.”

Devlin was first introduced to Gillibrand when she was running for the Senate.

New York State Assemblyman Billy Jones highlighted several aspects of Sen. Gillibrand’s bill while speaking at the Lake Placid Beachhouse on Friday. (Enterprise photo — Arthur Maiorella)

“Since then she has spent the last 14 years fighting to ensure people have good jobs affordable healthcare and an opportunity for a good education,” Devlin said. “She has been a good friend to the Adirondacks and her office has always been open to help us and others.”

Bill’s details

The Rebuild Rural America Act would:

Jim McKenna, the CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, speaks at the Lake Placid Beachhouse on July 14, 2023. He cracked a joke about Senator Gillibrand’s illustrious career of captaining the women’s congressional softball team. (Enterprise photo — Arthur Maiorella)

1) Establish a Rural Future Partnership Fund that would create a $50 billion block grant program for long-term rural economic development projects, including investments in child care centers, public schools, libraries, community centers, health care providers, workforce development programs, emergency preparedness programs, main street revitalization programs, and water and sewer facilities, among others. In contrast with existing funding opportunities, which often require applications that recipients must reapply through each year, the fund would provide grantees with five years of guaranteed funding. This process would allow communities to make longer-term investments and would ease administrative burdens on local governments.

2) Make it easier for rural communities to access federal funds and other resources by establishing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Innovation and Partnership Administration. This administration would work directly with local leaders to provide information on available federal resources, technical assistance, and data to help them craft and implement rural revitalization plans to make government helpful.

3) Fight population loss from rural areas by launching the Rural Future Corps, a program that would place AmeriCorps Fellows in rural communities and help these communities expand critical services like child care, health, nutrition assistance, education, and job training. The program would also work to retain members in rural communities after their year of service.

4) Empower local leaders, who know their communities best, to drive regional economic development through a new suite of national capacity and training programs to connect the expertise of national technical assistance providers with rural regions.

This is Gillibrand’s second attempt at having the Rebuild Rural America Act approved by the House and Senate and made into law with a signature from President Joe Biden.

Elizabeth Cooper, the executive director of the Adirondack North Country Association, speaks at the Lake Placid Beachhouse on Friday. Cooper thanked Sen. Gillibrand for her “commitment to rural economies.” (Enterprise photo — Arthur Maiorella)

2021 legislation

Two years ago, Gillibrand introduced the Rebuild Rural America Act of 2021 in the U.S. Senate. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry but didn’t make it further.

Asked why she thinks the bill may pass this year, Gillibrand said, “It’s a major vehicle to actually invest in rural America. It’s the one place where we put a lot of money into the USDA to create businesses to add value to the business for farms. It’s a focus, and the members on the committee are very focused on rebuilding rural Americas. It will have bipartisan support, it will have some synergies behind it. So it might be that opportunity to include it.”

The 2021 bill would have also directed the USDA to establish the Rural Innovation and Partnership Administration and the Rural Future Partnership Fund, providing five-year renewable rural partnership block grants to certified rural regions to implement locally-developed regional revitalization plans.

A rural region, under the 2021 bill, was defined as having at least 10,000 but fewer than 50,000 people;

a collection of rural census tracts or counties that fall outside of a micropolitan or metropolitan statistical area (i.e., 50,000 people or more) and that demonstrate evidence of economic, social, and cultural cooperation; or an Indian reservation.

House legislation

On June 21, Rep. Nikki Budzinski — a Democrat from the 13th congressional district in Illinois — introduced the Rebuild Rural America Act of 2023 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“From limited access to health care and high-speed internet to aging infrastructure and a rapidly changing economy, rural communities in Central and Southern Illinois are facing an onslaught of generational challenges,” Budzinski said in a press release. “I came to Congress to fight for investment and support for our smallest cities and towns to help them survive and thrive in the 21st century — and I’m proud to introduce bold legislation to do just that. By investing in economic development and rethinking how the federal government provides support to rural communities, the Rebuild Rural America Act ensures that vital funding and resources reach rural communities in need.”

The Rebuild Rural America Act, according to Budzinski, has been endorsed by a number of rural organizations around the country.


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