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Rural News

Renewable energy and jobs up in rural areas

Canton Daily Ledger | Posted on February 27, 2019

While an ambitious “Green New Deal” to convert the country to 100-percent renewable energy by 2030 is discussed in Washington, the rural Midwest is already heading that way, according to a new report verified by area experts. Renewable energy is growing, says “Green Energy Sweeps across Rural America,” an 18-page study from the Natural Resources Defense Council, with support from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The report shows how wind, solar and other energy-efficiency efforts are dominating the rural economy, growing jobs and investment.Such green-energy sources outnumber coal, gas and oil, combined, says the study, using 2017 data from the Dept. of Energy. In Illinois, for example, the percentage of fossil-fuel jobs fell to 0.8 percent of all jobs; clean-energy jobs grew to 2.6 percent.
“Clean energy plays an outsize role in rural areas relative to the size of rural economies,” say the report’s chief authors, Arjun Krishnaswami and Elisheva Mittelman. “In 2017, more people in the rural Midwest were employed by clean energy than by fossil fuel power plants, extraction, refinement and transportation combined in 10 of 12 midwestern states.

Midwest states expand telemedicine, allow dental therapists among steps to open wider access to dental services

CSG-Midwest | Posted on February 27, 2019

Often overlooked in the national debates and discussions about health insurance, dental care is having something of a moment in the Midwest as states embrace ways to expand oral health access. The need is great, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts: More than 56.7 million people in the United States live in areas with shortages of dentists, and only about one-third of dentists accept public insurance, which limits access for the 72 million children and adults on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).The Midwest has 1,448, or one-quarter, of the nation’s 5,834 designated Health Professional Shortage Areasfor dental care, according to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration. Which is why John Grant, project manager of Pew’s Dental Campaign, says the biggest problem “as far as the states go, especially in the Midwest, is expanding the dental workforce.”“Basic dental care is out of reach for most Americans,” Grant says. “Unlike the flu, dental decay doesn’t get better with time; it gets worse. For a lot of people, there’s a quality-of-life issue; people miss work because of pain or can’t get a job because their teeth look bad.”

Dodge City manager offers blueprint for dealing with rural Kansas housing shortage

The Hutchinson News | Posted on February 27, 2019

City Manager Cherise Tieben’s firm belief housing construction was a market-driven segment of the economy didn’t survive a 2007 meeting with exasperated Dodge City bankers, developers, realtors and employers. She learned from the group the southwest Kansas community’s housing stock was profoundly inadequate and the private sector was incapable of keeping pace. Teachers were residing in colleagues’ basements. Employers placed hires in hotels for up to six months. Families paid a premium for deplorable rentals. Bank financing was scarce. Most homes on the market were overpriced.A study showed the city would require 950 housing units by 2013, but banks were prohibited from offering rural development loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture because Dodge City no longer met the definition of rural.“We quickly realized this was an issue the city couldn’t take on all by itself,” Tieben said Thursday in testimony to the House Rural Revitalization Committee. “We literally used the scatter-gun approach.”The city plunged ahead with acronym-laden incentives through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), Rural Housing Incentive Districts (RHIDS) and Moderate Income Housing Program (MIH). They formed Community Housing Association of Dodge City (CHAD) to tackle blight projects and abandoned homes. City-owned surplus property was provided to developers.Tieben said the result has been the addition of 340 housing units serving Dodge City residents. Twenty units are under construction and 160 more are being planned, she said.

Washington lawmakers consider bill that would provide the homeless with a free ID card

The Seattle Times | Posted on February 27, 2019

People without identification have a harder time renting an apartment, opening or accessing a bank account, using medical insurance, qualifying for federal benefits, like food stamps, or even staying in some homeless shelters. And, of course, getting a job is nearly impossible. Even joining the military, a common outlet from poverty in the past, is also unlikely without identification.A 2006 national survey conducted by the Brennan Center found that as many as 11 percent of Americans, or more than 21 million people, don’t have government-issued photo ID, with elderly, minority populations or low-income individuals being least likely to possess identification. Meanwhile, the $54 fee for a state-issued identification card in Washington is too much for many, particularly those who lack shelter.A measure in the state Legislature, Senate Bill 5664, is aimed at eliminating barriers to identification for homeless people. If passed, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Licensing (DOL) would be required to create a program to provide homeless individuals with a free ID card, also known as an identicard.

Can Florida import cheaper drugs from abroad? Not so fast, says Senate president

Miami Herald | Posted on February 27, 2019

A proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis to reduce prescription drug prices by importing medications from Canada is drawing concerns from the leader of the Florida Senate, who said he worries parts of the plan sketched out by the House might run afoul of Congress’ jurisdiction.Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters Friday that the governor’s plan to allow the state to import drugs from America’s northern neighbor was something he was “interested in exploring,” particularly to save the state money for Medicaid patients or institutions like state prisons’ healthcare.But he threw cold water on another potential plan, included in a House bill mirroring DeSantis’ announcement, that would allow individuals or private entities to receive imported drugs from abroad.

A Netflix Model for Hepatitis C: One Price, Unlimited Meds

Pew Trust | Posted on February 26, 2019

Two states fighting an escalating hepatitis C crisis will soon pay a flat fee for unlimited drugs — Netflix style — to treat prisoners and low-income residents suffering from the deadly liver disease, with the goal of all but eliminating the infection. Both states will pay a drugmaker to provide enough medication each year to treat its prisoners and Medicaid patients. Washington also plans to buy the drugs for others, including state employees, retirees and teachers.The new design illustrates how states are trying to think creatively to tackle one of their costliest but most important long-term challenges: providing health care access to low-income residents and people in the state’s care.

Wall Street, Seeking Big Tax Breaks, Sets Sights on Distressed Main Streets

The New York Times | Posted on February 21, 2019

Distressed America is Wall Street’s hottest new investment vehicle. Hedge funds, investment banks and money managers are trying to raise tens of billions of dollars this year for so-called opportunity funds, a creation of President Trump’s 2017 tax package meant to steer money to poor areas by offering potentially large tax breaks.Little noticed at first, the provision has unleashed a flurry of investment activity by wealthy families, some of Wall Street’s biggest investors and other investors who want to put money into projects ostensibly meant to help struggling Americans. The ranks of those starting such funds include Anthony Scaramucci, the New York hedge fund executive who served briefly as Mr. Trump’s communications director.More than 80 of the funds have sprung up since January 2018, even though the Trump administration has not finalized regulations governing them. Managers of the funds are seeking to raise huge sums of money by pitching investors on a combination of outsize returns and a feel-good role in fighting poverty.

Why your hospital bill is too high or too low

Daily Yonder | Posted on February 21, 2019

Medical billing systems drive up the cost of commercial health insurance. One way to ease that strain is to get more low-income people on Medicaid. Hospitals have to collect as much as it costs them to take care of their patients. That is hard for small hospitals, most of which are rural. Those costs include not just the services that individual patients realize they received, but also a share of the salary of the maintenance crew, the light bill and the cost of replacing the stained carpet.Different payers have greatly different abilities to pay, so the hospital has to charge its costs to whoever can pay them. Otherwise the hospital will go broke and close.Understanding the general pattern of hospital and medical bills can help a patient or voter understand why Medicaid expansion is important for them, why “self pay” patients are at risk of bankruptcy, and why their insurance bill is so high.


Go for the vacation, stay for the worker subsidy

Daily Yonder | Posted on February 21, 2019

Vermont is offering $10,000 to workers who move with their remote job to the state. It’s part of larger efforts in Northern New England to attract more young people.  When measured by median age, the three Northern New England states (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) are the three oldest in the country.

Land Use Planning Tools to Reduce Wildfire Risk

Daily Yonder | Posted on February 21, 2019

Timber management on federal lands can be justified for valid reasons — protecting watersheds, conserving wildlife habitat, promoting overall forest health —  but it rarely helps communities confront looming wildfire disasters. The best solutions: better land use planning and improved building designs. The President issued an executive order last month that instructs federal land managers to treat 8.45 million acres of land and cut 4.4 billion board feet of timber. But land use planning, not logging on federal lands, is a more effective tool to confront future wildfire disasters.This President’s executive order represents a significant increase in timber harvest compared to recent years—roughly 80 percent more than was cut on U.S. Forest Service lands in 2017—but is minor compared to cuts in the 1980s, which reached more than 12 billion board feet.Timber management on federal lands can be justified for valid reasons—including watershed protection, wildlife habitat conservation, and overall forest health— but it rarely helps our communities confront looming wildfire disasters in the face of a warming climate and continued home building on fire-prone lands. Better land use planning and improved design of our built environment is our best bet at reducing risk from wildfires.