Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a $54.6 million Community Facilities program loan to the Fulton County Health Center in Wauseon, Ohio, to renovate a critical access hospital that also offers treatment for substance misuse disorders. "USDA's investment in much-needed medical facilities is bringing state-of-the-art health care to residents in our rural communities," Vilsack said. "When complete, the hospital and new medical office building will have the staff and equipment to deliver quality medical services to Fulton County, including treatment for patients who have opioid and other substance use disorders." Secretary Vilsack is leading an interagency effort to address the rural opioid crisis, which disproportionately affects rural areas. He made the announcement here today as part of the White House's efforts this week to bring increased attention to the opioid crisis in rural areas. On Aug. 31, Vilsack announced an initiative to provide transitional housing for rural Americans who are seeking to recover from substance use disorders. Vilsack was on the campus of Clinton County's Wilmington College where a similar $19.7 million USDA Community Facilities loan in 2013 helped to finance the rehabilitation of Kettering Hall, home of the school's Center for Science and Agriculture.
Three hours south of the Field of Dreams, the words of the late W.P. Kinsella were invoked Monday night in front of the Iowa Supreme Court. Kinsella was the Canadian writer whose novel “Shoeless Joe,” a story of a ghostly baseball player written in in 1978 while he was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in Iowa City, became the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” He died Friday at age 81. Monday night wasn’t primarily a eulogy for the man whose fiction in a roundabout way led 150 or so people to watch a real-life court drama in the Grand Theatre in downtown Keokuk, complete with free cookies. Most of the hour was spent haggling over whether the Dyersville City Council acted improperly four years ago when it rezoned the Field of Dreams from agricultural to commercial ground to make way for a youth sports complex with a couple dozen fields — the All-Star Ballpark Heaven that has yet to materialize. Attorney Susan Hess, speaking on behalf of 23 neighbors of the movie site who objected to plans to build a tournament baseball park on the 193-acre farm next door, quoted “Shoeless Joe” near the end of her rebuttal argument:
Louisiana's Shelter at Home program is a key component of the housing recovery plan for flood victims, but it may not apply to potentially thousands of people because mobile homes are automatically excluded. The quirk in the program has prompted angry calls to state lawmakers and others in recent weeks as the program, which provides up to $15,000 for homeowners to be able to quickly get back into their flood-damaged homes, begins to ramp up. "I've watched people repair manufactured homes," said state Sen. Bodi White, a Central Republican who is running for mayor of Baton Rouge. "I don't buy that you can't repair them or do a good bit of work on them. "It seems unreasonable to me," he added. Shelter at Home, which the state is already preparing to spend at least $400 million in mostly federal money on, allows homeowners to get basic repairs – drywall replacing, bathroom repairs, gutting and other work – done so that they don't need housing elsewhere in an already crunched housing market following the floods that left 13 people dead and thousands displaced. Livingston Parish had at least 11,000 mobile homes before the floods, and Ascension had more than 7,000. Both are among the hardest-hit parishes from the recent floods. It's unclear exactly how many of those homes and homes in the other parishes affected by the flood suffered damage. Leaders have estimated that more than 100,000 homes across South Louisiana were affected by the floods.
Dr. Bronner’s, a Vista, Calif.-based natural and organic body care products company known for its hemp-based soaps, has pledged to contribute upward of $660,000 to marijuana legalization campaigns in five states. Dr. Bronner’s plans to partner with organizations such as New Approach and the Marijuana Policy Project and to make financial contributions to legalization campaigns in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, which arevoting on recreational marijuana measures this November. “The expected sweep of these states will exert enormous pressure on federal lawmakers to end the racist outdated policy of cannabis prohibition, that shreds productive citizens’ lives and families for no good reason, and focus law enforcement resources instead on actual crime,” officials for Dr. Bronner’s said.
In New York state, it's the law that working police dogs injured in the line of duty must be transported to the nearest veterinarian in an ambulance. The law to authorize paramedics to transport injured police dogs to appropriate facilities was sponsored by State Senator David J. Valesky and passed during the 2015-2016 Legislative Session.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new USDA initiatives to strengthen outreach and education resources at the local level to combat the rural opioid epidemic, including an expanded series of state-led opioid awareness events and increased access to information in USDA local offices. The effort begins on Monday, Sept. 19, coinciding with President Obama's designated Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week from Sept. 18 – 23. Opioid addiction, including heroin and prescription drug misuse, is a fast-growing problem that played a role in more than 28,000 deaths in 2014. The opioid crisis disproportionately affects rural communities in part due to the lack of outreach and treatment resources available in remote areas. In January, President Obama tapped Vilsack to lead an interagency initiative focused on curbing rural opioid misuse. Over the past nine months, Vilsack has visited regions of the country that have been hit hard by opioid addiction to host a series of White House Rural Council Townhalls to hear from local leaders fighting the epidemic on the ground and discuss possible solutions. To continue the important conversations happening in rural communities devastated by the opioid crisis, leaders from USDA's Farm Service Agency and Rural Development offices in key affected states will host opioid awareness events to bring together government officials, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issue, forge partnerships, identify possible solutions and highlight the need for more treatment resources in rural communities. The series will kick off with these four events in September with more to follow in the coming months:September 19 : Tolland, Connecticut, September 20: Brighton, Colorado, September 26: Grants Pass, Oregon, September 29: Fayetteville, NC
If you’re baffled by the latest good news/bad news for the American middle class – word that in 2015 typical family income got its best boost in five decades, but families are still worse off than in 2007, just think about trickle-down economics and how it works. During an economic recovery, the modern U.S. business model of trickle-down capitalism focuses first on delivering corporate profits, then soaring stock prices on Wall Street and big stock bonuses for CEOs and corporate execs. And if the recovery goes on long enough, some of the nation’s income gains eventually trickle down to rank-and-file workers. So that finally happened in 2015. It’s an important milestone worth cheering that last year, families smack in the middle of the middle class saw their household incomes rise by 5.2% to $56,516, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While public policy does play a role today in amplifying economic inequality in America with low taxes on the rich and a frozen minimum wage, the good news/bad news scenario that now plagues the middle class is much less the product of presidential policies and much more the result of the private sector trickle-down business model. In the economy, the power to divvy up the nation’s economic pie lies in the hands of Corporate CEOs and small business owners who reward themselves and their shareholders first, while cutting jobs, moving plants overseas and freezing the pay of average employees.
Despite concerns about the fate of rural America, a number of key benchmarks show these areas have been growing economically since 2014. Many were surprised when the Census Bureau released data last Thursday showing median household income in non-metro areas of the United States had increased by 3.4 percent in 2015 and poverty rates had fallen. That many people in small towns around the country still feel left behind is an indication of how deep a hole these regions were in. At the depths of the Great Recession, rural counties were shedding 200,000 jobs per year, rural unemployment stood at nearly 10 percent and poverty rates reached heights unseen in decades. Many rural communities were ill-positioned to bounce back quickly, since widespread job loss came as the economy was increasingly focused on technology. But we're seeing progress. Rural populations have stabilized and are beginning to grow, the Agriculture Department reported earlier this year. Then we learned that rural counties had added more than 250,000 jobs in 2014 and 2015. As a result, the rural unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent for the first time since 2007. Hunger is down in rural and urban areas alike. Today, about 8 million fewer people are struggling to provide adequate food for themselves or their families compared to the height of the recession.
Stop trying to become the next Silicon Valley. While Alicia Keys may be the driving voice behind the “do you” mantra these days, there is truth in owning what is uniquely yours. Silicon Valley has a corner on the capital market, but money alone does not build strong companies. A strong business model is key, and more cities should be helping entrepreneurs to find gaps and see them as opportunities. Phoenix has a compelling case to make to solar innovators just as Sacramento does for sustainable agriculture. Attracting and retaining brilliant minds to solve problems with assets that are unique to a region should be a focus for all civic leaders.Recognize that your success is not riding on white males with tech startups. In 2015, 40 percent of new entrepreneurs were African American, Latino, Asian or non-white, and 36 percent were women. With an aging population, 25 percent of new entrepreneurs last year wereindividuals aged 55-64. When did you last read about the 60-year-old African American woman who raised a series A? Right. Last year, companies with at least one female founder received a mere 10 percent of venture capital funding. Many startup competitions, angel network pitch nights and big wins in the local newspaper do not reflect these growing demographics. At SEED SPOT, we have launched several women-only programs, partnered with the International Rescue committee to serve refugee entrepreneurs, and launched “Véndeme tu Sueño” in partnership with Univision to serve more Latino entrepreneurs. Each emerging population is a huge asset for the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
One of the ways the inequality gap has widened is through a concentration of wealth among a small subset of the population. No matter how you look at it, whether it’s through income quintiles or the top 1%, gains have been made by those at the top and a greater percentage of overall wealth is now in their hands than was the case in the immediate post-World War II period. This concentration perpetuates itself, asindividuals and families who start out with less wealth to build on often fail to climb the economic ladder. This is why entrepreneurship can be so powerful a force that breaks through these constructions that concentrate wealth. One of the fundamental characteristics of entrepreneurship is a sense of egalitarianism. In an ideal world, anyone can and does have the ability to strike out on their own and start a business. It doesn’t require a degree, nor a minimum number of hours to become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is supposed to be open, a career where anyone can be successful and financial success is based upon the value the business generates.