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Rural News

Public health insurance option gets early Colorado House approval

Colorado Politics | Posted on March 7, 2019

The House voted Friday to require two state agencies to study and develop a proposal for the Legislature by Nov. 15. The bill goes to the Senate after another House vote.Fourteen rural counties have just one health insurer. Their residents face some of the nation's highest premiums.Republican Rep. Marc Catlin, a bill co-sponsor, says it's smart to study what a public option might look like before introducing formal legislation in 2020.

Where Unpaid Water Bills Can Mean Losing a Home

Pew Trust | Posted on March 7, 2019

 The Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr. couldn’t believe it. His Baltimore church, Friendship Baptist, got a city water bill charging him $3,000 for using 700 gallons a day — mostly during weekdays when only one person was in the building.The reverend asked for a public works department hearing on the 2014 water bill; there, officials admitted error and promised to adjust the bill. But the next quarter, he got another four-figure bill — the original $3,000 plus another $2,000. Told he was limited to just one hearing a year, he asked for another in 2015, where the city again acknowledged error.But the mistaken bills kept coming. And the department stopped holding hearings, he said. With the agency having twice admitted mistakes, Gwynn’s church decided not to pay. In 2017, the city put a lien on the church, then sold the lien.Scrambling, Gwynn sent an employee to pay the bill. They managed to persuade the city to reimburse the lien holder.


South Dakota addressing shortage of large animal vets

AgWeek | Posted on March 7, 2019

South Dakota is following the national trend when it comes to the shortage of large animal veterinarians. However, the state is also trying to be proactive in addressing the problem and that was a part of the focus of the recent James Bailey Herd Health Conference in Brookings.Farquer said he believes vet schools need to get back to finding people that grew up in rural areas and want to return there. "The challenge is finding any veterinarian that is qualified to take over the practice that wants to move to a community of 3,000 people," he says."We don't select a lot of students from rural communities and the veterinarians that are getting into vet school are currently women from dense urban areas that normally work with small companion animals," Farquer says.South Dakota is aggressively working to solve the shortage and so is SDSU with the Two-Plus-Two Program, also known as the Rural Veterinary Medical Education Program. It allows participating students to attend the first two years of veterinary school at SDSU and the last two years at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Nursing Homes Are Closing Across Rural America, Scattering Residents

The New York Times | Posted on March 7, 2019

Harold Labrensz spent much of his 89-year life farming and ranching the rolling Dakota plains along the Missouri River. His family figured he would die there, too. But late last year, the nursing home in Mobridge, S.D., that cared for Mr. Labrensz announced that it was shutting down after a rocky history of corporate buyouts, unpaid bills and financial ruin. It had become one of the many nursing homes across the country that have gone out of business in recent years as beds go empty, money troubles mount and more Americans seek to age in their own homes.For Mr. Labrensz, though, the closure amounted to an eviction order from his hometown. His wife, Ramona, said she could not find any nursing home nearby to take him, and she could not help him if he took a fall at home. So one morning in late January, as a snowstorm whited out the prairie, Mr. Labrensz was loaded into the back of a small bus and sent off on a 220-mile road trip to a nursing home in North Dakota.

Art Cullen is Bringing Rural Farm Politics to the National Stage

Civil Eats | Posted on March 7, 2019

When Art Cullen won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2017, it marked an important change for the small-town newspaper editor. Cullen and his brother John run the Storm Lake Times, a twice-a-week paper staffed mainly by family members that seeks not only to knit together a strong community in the diverse, 10,000-person town of Storm Lake, Iowa, but also to keep a record of—and engage in an active conversation about—the way agriculture there has changed. The prize led Cullen to write Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper, which serves as a clear-eyed chronicle of a meat packing town built on the backs of several generations of immigrants and an era when Iowa agriculture has been shaped by a small handful of powerful corporations.The Pulitzer judges described his editorials as “fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.” And Cullen’s book strikes a similarly dogged tone while complicating many of the race, class, and cultural divides at the center of our current political moment, while asking the reader to look closer and think harder about what is unfolding in America’s heartland.

Rural Nebraska libraries reinventing themselves in 'makerspace' movement

Journal Star | Posted on March 7, 2019

Ean Petersen has learned how the interior hinges of his 3D-printed birds, cats and dogs need proper spacing in order to flex and bend, and through trial and error, which materials work best.The North Platte 10-year-old can laser engrave paw prints onto a set of dice and laminate the instructions for "Pet Store," the board game he created to play with family and friends.Having access to the equipment used by makers and creators at his local public library has kindled Petersen's creative spark, bolstered his self-esteem and unleashed his entrepreneurial spirit.Petersen is among the thousands of Nebraskans, young and old, who have discovered or rediscovered a passion for making things, another reinvention of public libraries sweeping across the country, including in the Cornhusker State.Two decades ago, it was the push for library computer labs capable of connecting the public to the internet, which required public and private grants until municipalities saw the utility and agreed to fund the project.

Online portal seeks to decrease rural health "phlanthropy gap"

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 7, 2019

A federal agency and national association have commissioned a toolkit to help groups raise more money for rural health-related projects. The creators hope a rising tide in funding will lift all boats.A new online “learning portal” seeks to help rural organizations raise more funding from philanthropies, which tend to favor urban projects and organizations over rural ones, a federal study shows. “There’s been a great interest in philanthropic investments in rural communities,” said Alana Knudson, one of the portal’s contributors. Knudson is co-director of the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis at the non-partisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.  The online toolkit was developed through the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) in partnership with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), who have convened an annual philanthropy meeting for the last five years

The star student with a drug problem

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 7, 2019

The stigma of drug addiction means people in small towns may keep secrets to themselves – until it’s obvious something is wrong. Fighting addiction means talking honestly about the problems confronting our rural communities.Normal protocol was to send students who failed the drug test to a substance-abuse class at the juvenile detention center and ban them from participating in after–school activities. However, in my case, the positive drug test was kept a secret. I was allowed to continue doing theater and didn’t have to go to the substance abuse class. Nobody wanted to admit that a star student had a drug problem. My addiction was nurtured and kept safe. I continued to get worse. 

Small-town U.S.A. falls further behind urban America in job opportunities after recession

Market Watch | Posted on March 4, 2019

City dwellers really do have it much better than rural inhabitants, at least when it comes to job opportunities in the 21st century. After looking at who’s working in urban and rural areas, the Federal Reserve found that the labor market began to recover earlier and improve much faster in cities than in the countryside. While there’s always been a gap, it’s become more severe during the current expansion. The yawning gap between city and country is most glaring in what’s known as the labor force participation rate. That is, the percentage of the working-age population that either has a job or is looking for one.Let’s start with urbanites. The percentage of prime-aged (25-54-year-old) residents who were working or looking for work climbed to 83% at the end of 2018 and finally topped the pre-recession average.By contrast, the participation rate for prime-aged rural Americans has recovered more slowly and is still under 80%. The rate had fallen to as low as 78.5% in the wake of the recession.

The Problem for Small-Town Banks: People Want High-Tech Services

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on March 4, 2019

Consumers have moved to large lenders offering online transactions; community lenders left behind struggle.