Electric cooperatives offer a promising way for small cities and rural areas in North Carolina to build access to high-capacity broadband. But state laws hamper those efforts, and large commercial providers are in no hurry to fill the gap, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Commercial internet providers are making progress with fiber-to-the-home and other high-capacity services in major urban parts of North Carolina, the report says. But in rural areas, fiber and higher-capacity build outs are few and far between, the report says. The big exception is areas that have cooperatives that have gotten into the broadband game. “Examining the rural areas with high-quality access shows a common denominator: cooperatives,” said the report, which was written by H.R. Trostle and Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “North Carolina has eight telephone cooperatives and each of them has already invested in fiber-optics; six of them have already replaced or aim to replace all their old copper with fiber-optics. Some of them are bringing fiber-optics to nearby areas outside.” The report says its not just telecommunications cooperatives that have the potential to help rural areas make progress on high-capacity broadband. Electric cooperatives may also provide internet service, but – like phone cooperatives – they can’t expand internet hook-ups beyond their primary service area. Additionally, state law prohibits power cooperatives from accepting federal loans or grants for internet projects and limits the amount of capital they may invest in communications services. The report recommends repealing those state laws.
A recent internal federal investigation reminded us of why elections are important — and how damaging it is that discussion of issues affecting rural America is nearly missing from this presidential campaign. The Office of Inspector General of the federal Health and Human Services Department released two reports criticizing the care provided in 28 hospitals directly operated by the federal Indian Health Service. The Associated Press reports that “the often substandard quality of care at hospitals serving Native Americans is the result of outdated equipment and technology, lack of resources, and difficulty attracting and keeping skilled staff.” The health care offered at Indian Health Service hospitals would have been an interesting topic for Sunday night’s presidential debate. But, again, there was little offered to rural voters, except, perhaps for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s comments on what the country owed coal mining regions. Clinton allowed that a clean energy future (and low natural gas prices) were changing the energy economy. “But I also want to be sure that we don’t leave people behind,” Clinton said. “Those coal miners and their fathers and grandfathers, they dug that coal out, a lot of them lost their lives. They were injured. But they turned the lights on and they powered their factories. I don’t want to walk away from them.” Republican Donald Trump continued during the debate to equate “inner city” with black Americans. “I would be a president for all of the people — African Americans, the inner cities,” he said. “You go into the inner cities and you see it’s 45 percent poverty, African Americans now 45 percent poverty in the inner cities.” As the Washington Post reports, this was wrong on several counts. First, the poverty rate among African Americans in metro areas is 26 percent. He also misses the five million African Americans who live in rural areas or small towns. Most of those people live in the South. The Post has a good map showing that there is a huge swath of rural America with large percentages of African American residents.
The nation’s drug-addiction epidemic is driving a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care, forcing many states to take urgent steps to care for neglected children. Several states, such as New Hampshire and Vermont, have either changed laws to make it possible to pull children out of homes where parents are addicted, or have made room in the budget to hire more social workers to deal with the emerging crisis. Other states, such as Alaska, Kansas and Ohio, have issued emergency pleas for more people to become foster parents and take neglected children, many of them infants, into their homes. In many states in the East and parts of the Midwest, addiction to opioid painkillers and heroin is helping to drive the crisis in foster care. In other parts of the Midwest and in the West, abuse of methamphetamines is. Regardless of the source, states are scrambling to deal with the fallout on children.
Before hospitals in the rest of the country started seeing a surge in the number of infants born with severe drug withdrawal symptoms, this town of 50,000 was already facing a crisis. In 2010, babies born to mothers using heroin were filling up so many beds in the newborn intensive care unit at the city’s main hospital that little space was left for babies with other life-threatening conditions. The nurses who cared for these agitated and often inconsolable infants knew there was a better and less costly way to help newborns through the painful, weekslong process of drug withdrawal By 2012, they had created a separate newborn therapy unit just for babies in withdrawal. Because their treatment didn’t require the same high-tech equipment needed in an intensive care unit, it was about half the cost of neonatal intensive care, according to Dr. Sean Loudin, who heads the new unit at Cabell Huntington Hospital. The next step was to create an infant recovery center outside the hospital where newborns could be taken as soon as it was safe to leave the hospital, usually within two weeks. Not only would it free up beds for other newborns who need intensive care, it would be tailored to the needs of infants in drug withdrawal, and their parents.
According to AccuWeather’s winter 2016-2017 outlook, chances are high for temperature and precipitation extremes to impact large portions of the U.S., making a long season seem even longer for many. Of particular note for Florida citrus growers, reports indicate that while very mild air is expected to hang on in the Southeast region throughout December, 2017 will bring with it a pattern change and sudden burst of cold air. Other highlights from the forecast include:Frequent storms across the northeastern U.S. this winter may lead to an above-normal season for snowfall.Shots of brutally cold air are predicted to slice through the upper Midwest; an early start to lake-effect snow season is in store.Fall-like weather will linger across the southern Plains and Gulf Coast, and dryness will become a major theme as the season progresses.Winter will get off to a quick start in the Pacific Northwest and northern California with rain and storms.Warm and dry conditions will span much of the season for central and Southern California and the Southwest.
Rural immigrants are more likely to be of working age (18-64), are more racially and ethnically diverse, are less educated and are more likely to have children than the rural population born in the U.S., an analysis of data by researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy found. The researchers found that working rural immigrants are nearly twice as likely as rural U.S. born workers to be poor, and they are poorer and have less education than their urban counterparts. “Our findings on the working poor suggest that economic stability is out of reach for many rural immigrants, particularly those without U.S. citizenship,” said the researchers. “A more complex analysis is necessary to better understand why so many rural immigrants currently working full time are poor. Such widespread poverty of full-time workers in a first-world country is cause for alarm, especially considering how poorly the U.S. safety net performs compared to that of other wealthy nations.” The data also revealed that citizens are far less likely to be poor and are almost twice as likely to have a college degree. More than 97 percent of rural immigrants who are citizens speak at least some English compared to just over 84 percent of rural immigrants who are not citizens.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $32 million in loans and grants that will promote economic development and provide access to broadband in more than 80 rural American communities. Vilsack, who is chair of the first-ever White House Rural Council, convened the forum with rural policy, business and nonprofit leaders to discuss pertinent issues facing rural communities, including opportunities for economic growth and strategies for improving health care and housing. “This funding will provide much-needed capital and bring cutting-edge technology to rural communities across the country,” Vilsack said. “Investments in our rural businesses and communities, coupled with extending high-speed broadband, have led to a resurgence of economic development, created jobs and improved the quality of life in rural America. While we have made great progress, our work to extend capital and technology to rural America is not done.” Significant gains have been made across rural America: Rural household income climbed 3.4 percent in 2015, overall poverty and food insecurity fell dramatically, rural populations have begun to rebound, non-metro areas have added more than 250,000 jobs since 2014, and the share of rural Americans without health insurance is now at an all-time low.
A new private-public partnership with USDA, private foundations, and banks will help rural community development organizations take advantage of more than $400 million in federal loans to build community facilities like health clinics, schools, and child-care centers. The Uplift America fund, which was announced today, will provide private grants to help community development financial institutions manage and invest USDA Community Facilities loans. The organizations receiving the loans via USDA will, in turn, re-lend the money locally to facilities projects. The 26 community development organizations that will receive the support have “track records of helping reduce poverty in some of the nation’s most isolated rural communities,” according to a press release from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, one of the private foundations involved in the project, and the organization that will manage the private portion of the fund. The community development groups receiving the re-investment loans are spread across 18 states and serve Appalachia, the Texas-Mexico border region, the South, and Indian Country. They include organizations such as the Federation for Appalachian Housing Enterprises, which serves mountain portions of six states; Hope Credit Union, which serves parts of four states in the Mississippi Delta; Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corp., which serves tribal communities across the U.S.; and Rural Community Assistance Corporation, which serves 13 Western states.
The small town’s biggest success story and biggest employer, outdoor-gear retailer Cabela’s Inc., was being sold to rival Bass Pro Shops for $4.5 billion. The combination, which had been rumored for months, set off fresh fears about job losses at Cabela’s headquarters and what it could mean to the area’s future. “When Cabela’s thrives, the town thrives,” said the 61-year-old. “It means there are more people who are going to buy more products here. We have car dealerships. We have a Wal-Mart.” Sidney, which is three-hour drive northeast from Denver, was founded in 1867 by the Union Pacific Railroad and became a frontier town filled with saloons and brothels that boomed during the gold rush. But since the 1960s it has been best known as Cabela’s country. The company, which started as a family-run catalog retailer, moved its operations into a vacant John Deere building in downtown Sidney. Over the next four decades it opened wildlife-bedecked megastores around the country. The company went public in 2004 and last year it booked sales of $4 billion. The area has more jobs (about 8,000) than residents (about 6,800) with nearly half those workers commuting from within 60 miles, according to city statistics. Cabela’s employs roughly 2,000 individuals from the surrounding area, said Sidney Mayor Mark Nienhueser, himself a former Cabela’s worker. It operates a large distribution facility and a call center in Sidney as well as its administrative offices.
An agricultural emergency has been declared in the Florida Keys over a fly larvae infestation threatening endangered deer found only in the island chain. In a statement Monday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the discovery of New World screwworm in the National Key Deer Refuge “sends shivers down every rancher’s spine.” Screwworm feed on the animals’ flesh, and infestations can be fatal to livestock and pets. Refuge manager Dan Clark says about 40 of the 3-feet-tall Key deer have had to be euthanized over the last month due to the screwworm infestation.