A $10 billion private investment fund has been established to support job-creating rural projects across the country, according to a recent announcement by the White House Rural Council.
The fund will target several aspects of rural life, including schools, hospitals, and broadband expansion, in an attempt to improve the economy and the quality of life for rural residents, according to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and Chair of the White House Rural Council.
“This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country,” Vilsack said in a statement. “USDA and other agencies invest in infrastructure through a variety of federal initiatives, but our resources are finite and there are backlogs of projects in many parts of the economy.”
Nationwide, rural areas face many unique challenges. While unemployment rates in rural areas are similar to rates in urban areas, average earnings are lower due to a lack of high-paying jobs. Rural areas often lack adequate Internet access. As of 2013, only 62 percent of rural adults had broadband access at home, compared to 70 percent of urban adults and 73 percent of suburban adults. Rural students are less likely to attend a four-year college than their urban peers, and rural adults are less likely to attain a college degree.
The fund’s initial investment came from CoBank, a national cooperative bank that serves rural parts of the country. Pension funds, endowments, and foundations can also invest in the fund, which will be distributed to beneficiaries determined by the USDA and other federal agencies. Those projects could receive a mix of private dollars and federal money.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.