Friday, January 17, 2014

USDA adds parts of Ky., La., Tenn., W.Va. to areas that get extra oomph in seeking federal aid

Parts of Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia are being added to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "StrikeForce" program aimed at increasing economic opportunity in rural areas with persistent poverty, bringing the total to parts of 16 states. It gives extra weight to applications for federal assistance from the areas.

"There are 703 counties that have been persistently poor counties, with high poverty rates for extended periods of time. Of those, 537 are located in rural America," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "It is fairly obvious to me that there is a significant rural component to the poverty America is dealing with."

Vilsack wrote about it on the Huffington Post Politics blog, saying, "Rural America faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to combating poverty in our towns and communities. Too often, rural people and places are hard to reach or otherwise underserved -- but not forgotten."

In Kentucky, 73 of the state's 120 counties will be included, approximately one-third in the depressed Central Appalachian coalfield. "The effort will work in tandem with the federal 'Promise Zones' designation announced last week by President Barack Obama for eight southeastern Kentucky counties" and four other poverty-stricken areas, Janet Patton reports for the newspaper.

It will also complement Shaping Our Appalachian Region, the initiative of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and 5th District U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, R-Somerset, which is "aimed at diversifying and revitalizing Eastern Kentucky's battered economy," Patton reports.

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