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Gillibrand visits JCC, talks rural funding, legislation

Photo by Jordan W. Patterson U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Jamestown Community College to discuss newly unveiled legislation aimed at securing federal funding for rural communities and towns. The Rebuild Rural America Act is a Gillibrand-sponsored proposal focused on development projects for smaller municipalities that is tailored to the needs of individual communities.

Focused on rural community funding, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand discussed a newly introduced bill at Jamestown Community College that would prioritize federal investment for smaller municipalities throughout New York state.

“Our national investment in rural areas and small towns needs to match the contribution world communities make to our state and country,” Gillibrand said Monday to an audience inside the Sheldon Center on the Jamestown campus.

The Rebuild Rural America Act is a Gillibrand-sponsored proposal focused on development projects for smaller municipalities that is tailored to the needs of individual communities. Approval of such a bill would create a Rural Future Partnership Fund totalling $50 billion that would provide block grants to rural regions.

“Rural New York continues to contribute enormously to our state. Communities like Jamestown are on the front lines of preserving our natural resources; are the backbone of New York’s proud agricultural, manufacturing regions; and the perfect place to experience the incredible outdoor beauty we have in our state,” Gillibrand said. “The success of our state and our nation relies on the talent, innovation and growth of rural communities. … Congress simply doesn’t provide the level attention or support that rural communities deserve.”

Citing flaws in the current federal-funding model, Gillibrand said rural communities are being ignored and opportunities for grant funding are too “cumbersome.” She detailed scenarios of local agencies applying for multiple grants through complex processes in order to receive adequate funding for certain projects.

“Communities should not have to navigate a complicated bureaucratic maze or hire a lobbyist or grant writers just to find and apply for the right grants for their needs,” Gillibrand said. “Our system simply doesn’t work for our rural communities which is why I’m proud to announce and support the Rebuild Rural America Act.

“My bill would level the playing field for rural communities by overhauling our current federal funding model,” she continued. “It would establish a $50 billion program called the Rural Future Partnership Fund dedicated to solely serving the needs of small towns and rural communities.”

Citing unique communities, the senator said the proposed bill would make flexible block grants available provided through the fund and ensure the local municipalities can address a variety of concerns as opposed to specific areas mandated through traditional grants. Additionally, approval of the bill would enable multi-year grants allowing for more time to complete potential projects.

Gillibrand said the potential grants could be used for disaster response, job training, child care, emergency services, health care, and water and waste management services, among other projects.

The bill would also provide more staffing for local state offices to provide assistance in such projects and establish the Rural Future Corps aimed at expanding critical services.

Discussing the impact of such legislation, Gillibrand was joined by Dr. Daniel DeMarte, JCC president; Richard Zinc, Southern Tier West executive director; and Mark Geise, Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency CEO.

“One of Sen. Gillibrand’s top priorities in the U.S. Senate is to rebuild the American economy,” DeMarte said. “She is fighting every day for more good-paying jobs, more products stamped with the words ‘Made in America,’ and more new, small businesses around New York state.”

Speaking about the bill specifically, Geise added that its potential implementation in rural areas like Chautauqua County “almost seems custom fit.”

Gillibrand, during her time on campus, also highlighted the work of Southern Tier West, a regional planning and development board created by local legislatures representing Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. Its purpose is to assist with development projects throughout the three counties.

“It was established with the goal of increased resources for residents through development projects,” Gillibrand said. “These jobs are designed to provide more job and educational opportunities as well as access to recreation, health care services, housing and transportation.”

She noted the Rebuild Rural America Act would complement Southern Tier West’s and the county IDA’s goal of improving the region.

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