WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is an original cosponsor of the Invest in America Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) to create competitive grant programs to expand the workforce, modernize training tools, and promote job creation-especially in rural communities. The bill would establish two complementary grant programs through the Department of Labor to assist local and regional entities plan and implement efforts to support job creation and workforce training in areas experiencing economic difficulties.
"Far too many rural communities have been held back from the economic growth others have enjoyed since the recovery from the Great Recession. We owe it to all Americans to enact smart, forward-looking policies that will help all of our communities reap the benefits from a growing economy," said Sen. Heinrich, Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee. "The Invest in America Act will support targeted policies and investments that will spur growth in rural communities and improve the lives of families who live there."
Rural Americans make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, while 72 percent of the nation's total land areas are considered rural according to the Office of Management and Budget. While urban areas have long since recovered to pre-recession employment levels, rural America has yet to reach that milestone.
Senator Heinrich has been a leading advocate for developing policies to revitalize rural communities and help them thrive in the 21st century. Joint Economic Committee Democrats released a report in June that examines the current state of the rural economy. The report, "Investing in Rural America," looks at several aspects of the rural economy including infrastructure, family financial security, housing, clean energy and public lands, health care, and agriculture. The report examines opportunities for innovation and growth to help rural communities thrive. In addition, the report recommends that Congress enact policies that will invest, bring progress, and job creation to rural America.
Specifically, the Invest in America Act will:
- Target assistance to rural, medium-sized, and economically distressed areas. Half of the funding would be reserved for rural areas, a quarter would be reserved for medium-sized areas, and grant amounts would be determined according to factors including long-term economic growth rates, prevalence of skill mismatches, long-term unemployment and underemployment, poverty and persistent poverty rates, and the number and percent of workers and employers impacted by economic shifts (e.g., trade, technology).
- Award planning grants to local or regional economic development agencies, local workforce development boards, Indian tribes, career and technical education centers, postsecondary educational institution, or consortia of these organizations. Planning grants would last for up to two years and would set the groundwork for implementation grants.
- Award implementation grants to the same set of grantees eligible for the planning grants, in order to carry out economic and workforce development activities for up to five years. Grantees would be required to provide 30 percent non-federal match (cash or in-kind), with limited exceptions for rural and tribal areas. Allowable uses of grant funds would include support for: career and technical education, broadband access and adoption, support systems (e.g., drug treatment, child care) for members of low-income families seeking employment, business incubators, technical assistance for securing private investment, pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships, assistance for workers impacted by trade, transitional jobs for low-income workers, career pathways, and integrated adult education and occupational training.
- Monitor results of the grants to ensure that the funding is having a maximally-positive impact.