07-28-20 U.S. Senator Bennet Introduces Major Proposal to Invest in Rural Infrastructure Nationwide

U.S. Senator Bennet Introduces Major Proposal to Invest in Rural Infrastructure Nationwide

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced new legislation to dramatically improve how rural communities can secure federal support to develop new projects and invest in their infrastructure. The Reforming, Expanding, and Simplifying Investment for Local Infrastructure to Enhance our Neighborhoods and Towns (RESILIENT) Act empowers rural communities to upgrade their infrastructure by expanding technical assistance, strengthening local capacity, and improving access to federal funding. This bill is the result of close consultation with water infrastructure experts, regional economic development organizations, town clerks, managers, and Councils of Government across Colorado who offered valuable input to identify how the federal government can better serve rural America.

“Rural communities across the nation face many of the same challenges as larger communities, but often with fewer local staff and resources. As those who live and work in rural areas know, it’s often the ‘same ten people’ who work in local government, run a local business, serve on church or ditch boards, and coach sports teams,” said Bennet. “While the best ideas for rural infrastructure start at the local level, accessing federal funding and navigating federal programs is often difficult and costly, leaving communities with an uphill battle to maintain their roads, bridges, water systems, and other critical infrastructure.

“The RESILIENT Act will invest at the local level to provide technical expertise and build capacity, reduce costs, and empower rural communities to plan, develop, and implement major new infrastructure projects. This bill was guided by the challenges we’ve witnessed in Colorado, with input from a diverse group of stakeholders, to prioritize the unique needs of rural communities across the country. As Congress considers economic stimulus or infrastructure legislation in the future, we must prioritize delivery in rural areas every step of the way.”

“Rural infrastructure limitations often inhibit economic welfare and hamper business, education, and healthcare options. While farm equipment has grown over the years, many rural roads and bridges remain outdated and in disrepair. High speed internet is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity as more rural citizens are working and learning from home. Community water projects can cost millions of dollars, and limited local resources often mean existing infrastructure is not afforded necessary maintenance. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) members have long advocated for equity with urban areas, and we support infrastructure programs that promote stable economic systems and preserve rural character. That is exactly what the RESILIENT Act does, and we are proud to support this commonsense legislation and thank Senator Bennet for his leadership in addressing this important issue.” – Dr. Dale McCall, President, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

“The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), Inc. applauds Senator Bennet’s efforts to build much-needed capacity, federal support and partnerships throughout rural America. His Rural Infrastructure bill will help small communities compete for and access critical infrastructure funding, build capacity and long-term economic growth and prosperity in our Nation’s small towns and cities. RCAP supports the Senator’s proactive approach to assisting rural communities.” – Nathan Ohle, CEO, Rural Community Assistance Partnership

“Colorado Rural Water Association recognizes and understands the need for a more efficient and effective process for small and rural communities to acquire affordable funding opportunities.  Rural infrastructure is very expensive to repair or replace but is so important to the existence of rural America.  As a membership-based Association, we see and hear about this on a daily basis as we travel the state of Colorado providing training and technical assistance to small and rural water and wastewater systems.  Colorado Rural Water Association is in support of Senator Bennet’s effort to help achieve this goal.” – Steve Harper, Executive Director, Colorado Rural Water Association  

“We are hopeful that this bill will help small communities in Southwest Colorado and across the state with needed staff capacity support to navigate complex water projects and other infrastructure critical to survival.” – Laura Lewis Marchino CEcD, Executive Director, Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado

“I support Senator Bennet’s effort to address the challenges of rural with infrastructure needs. Rural areas are challenged by a lack of density that makes argument for per capita impact difficult in allocating resources for necessary public assets. Conversely rural communities should be strategic in the stewardship of resources by thoughtful economic planning toward sustainability.” – Kevin Wilkins, San Luis Valley Development Resources Group

“This legislation will strengthen the national partnership with rural communities. It is focused and will provide the strategic outreach and technical and financial assistance rural cities and towns need. We’re pleased to be an early supporter of the bill and hope it attracts broad bi-partisan support.” – Kevin Bommer, Executive Director, Colorado Municipal League

“Our nation’s rural communities need a focused effort in Congress to help address their unique infrastructure challenges. BPC Action is grateful to Senator Bennet for the opportunity to work with him to develop this important legislation.  We commend him for his leadership on the critical issue.” – Michele Stockwell, Executive Director, BPC Action

The RESILIENT Act is supported by Colorado Rural Water Association, Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), Colorado Municipal League, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Wheat, San Luis Valley Development Resources Group, Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado, and BPC Action.

The RESILIENT Act: 

·         Invests in local capacity and collaborative solutions by funding on-site technical assistance teams and reducing the cost of innovative projects with predevelopment grants.

·         Simplifies federal bureaucracy by establishing a one-stop-shop for rural infrastructure at USDA and dedicating staff at each federal infrastructure agency to work directly with, and on behalf of, rural communities.

·         Empowers local leaders and innovative projects by establishing a pilot program for small towns and rural areas to combine multiple infrastructure needs into a single project and making federal funding more accessible and flexible.

·         Reduces costs and unnecessary burdens by simplifying and standardizing the application process, providing more pathways to compliance, limiting costly requirements, and encouraging fiscal sustainability.

The bill text is available HERE. A one-page summary is available HERE. A section-by-section is available HERE.

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