President Biden Wants to Send Billions to Rural America, but This Must Happen First

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President Joe Biden regularly emphasizes how the major pieces of legislation he has signed — the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act — expand opportunities for Americans. This is especially true for rural Americans. Those three laws appropriated billions of dollars — about $464 billion — for many projects that could be particularly relevant to rural communities, allowing them to dream of a different economic future. Will rural voters give President Biden credit for all that money and the changes it could bring and will show their appreciation at the ballot box. My answer is that it is unrealistic to expect place-specific investments to have an immediate impact on elections. Rural places remain skeptical that federal policymakers have their best interests at heart. Proving otherwise will take intention and time. Above all, implementation matters. These investment opportunities will be meaningless unless they reach rural America. For that to happen, federal and local officials and many people in between will need to focus on intentional targeting and sensitivity to the challenges that rural places face. It is important to keep in mind that many rural governments are led by unpaid elected officials, and few rural city halls have staffs to work on planning, project development and grant writing. A critical first step will be to make sure that local communities have the staff and access to the expertise and administrative capacity necessary to secure and manage these investments.

[Tony Pipa is a senior fellow at the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution]

Biden Wants to Send Billions to Rural America, but This Must Happen First