Friday, May 14, 2021
After legislature balks, Mo. governor breaks promise to back Medicaid expansion approved by 53% of voters last year
Ad agency promotes advertising to support local news media, saying ad folks are culpable in journalism's decline
Boston-based advertising agency Allen & Gerritsen has a new initiative called "Protect Our Press" to support and preserve local, professional newsrooms across the nation through advertising."Protect Our Press calls on agencies, brands, publishers and individuals to take a pledge," Evelyn Mateos reports for Editor & Publisher. "It asks agencies to create a meaningful target, such as 20 percent of their programmatic budget to news sites; brands to review and rethink their approach to local news investments; publishers to create smarter, better value for Protect Our Press participants, and individuals to subscribe to one or more local news publishers."
First-of-its-kind study links air pollution from farms, mainly livestock, estimating nearly 18,000 U.S. deaths a year
|Washington Post graphic breaks out estimates produced by study; click on it to enlarge.|
Quick hits: Wyoming may sue to protect its coal markets; farmers switch tax status as benefits in Subchapter C shrink
Here's a roundup of stories with rural resonance; if you do or see similar work that should be shared on The Rural Blog, email email@example.com.
A new law in Wyoming created a $1.2 million fund to be used to sue other states that choose to use renewable energy instead of buying its coal. Read more here.
The deadline to apply for the National Science, Health and Environment Reporting Fellowships has been extended through Monday, May 17. Read more here.
Farmers are converting from Subchapter C corporations as C-corp tax benefits shrink. Read more here.
Study: Covid reporters report emotional trauma and stress from the demands of the job. Read more here.
An op-ed from prison-reform organization Vera Institute for Justice talks about why reimagining safety looks different in rural America. Read more here.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
|ABC's Rachel Scott interviews Sen. Joe Manchin|
"The Democrat from West Virginia told ABC News exclusively that he intends to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a more narrowly tailored piece of voting rights legislation that he said he believes could muster bipartisan support even as voting legislation is becoming a flash point between the two parties," Rachel Scott reports.
"I believe Democrats and Republicans feel very strongly about protecting the ballot boxes allowing people to protect the right to vote making it accessible making it fair and making it secure and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, if we apply that to all 50 states and territories, it's something that can be done -- it should be done," Manchin told Scott. "It could be done bipartisan to start getting confidence back in our system." That bill, named for the civil-rights leader and former House member who died last year, would restore federal monitoring of election laws in states with histories of racial discrimination.
Census showed slow population growth, but also displayed continued movement among states in their rankings
|Washington Post graph shows how states' population rankings have changed in the last 100 years. To enlarge, click on it.|
"The story of the U.S. population is one of fluidity," report Harry Stevens and Nick Kirkpatrick of The Washington Post. "Of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, more than half jumped ahead or fell behind others this year, despite state population totals that showed the nation’s slowest population growth since the 1930s. Compared with a century ago, the shifts are even more significant, with states rising by as many as 33 positions or falling by as many as 16. No single explanation can capture the complexity of these population shifts. Within any given region, some states have flourished while others declined. As some economies faltered, new industries sprung up and attracted migration from inside and outside the country."
EPA finally says changes in the environment show climate change is intensifying, partly because of human activity
The report joins "a growing body of evidence that climate effects are happening faster and becoming more extreme than when EPA last published its 'Climate Indicators' data in 2016," Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis report. "EPA Administrator Michael Regan said he wants to make clear to the entire country the dangers of rising temperatures in the United States."
“We want to reach people in every corner of this country because there is no small town, big city or rural community that’s unaffected by the climate crisis,” Regan said. “Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close with increasing regularity.” Along with the report, EPA updated its climate webpage to inform the public on how climate change is affecting communities.
The Federal Communications Commission is offering a $50 discount on your home broadband bill, reports Mike Snider of USA Today.
The benefit is "part of the roughly $900 billion Covid-19 relief package passed by Congress in December," Snider writes. It gave the FCC $3.2 billion for the program, in which more than 800 wireless and broadband providers are participating.
You qualify "if you also qualify for the Lifeline program, the program that helps low-income Americans purchase broadband access. You also qualify if you are on Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP," Snider reports. "Any household with income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines is eligible, as are those in the free and reduced-price school lunch program and school breakfast program. Also eligible: those who had a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020 and are at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers."
The program offers a discount of up to $50 a month toward broadband, up to $75 a month on tribal lands. Snider reports, "Eligible households also can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop or desktop computer or a tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase." Signup for the program opened Wednesday.
"Internet connectivity has been vital during the coronavirus pandemic as more Americans worked from home and more students attended school at home," Snider notes, quoting acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel: "We all know that Internet access is essential for modern life. This pandemic has made it abundantly clear that broadband is no longer nice to have, it’s need-to-have, for everyone, everywhere."
Two Post reporters "witnessed Ocasio-Cortez exit the House chamber late Wednesday afternoon ahead of Greene, who shouted 'Hey Alexandria' twice in an effort to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists, and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them 'terrorist' groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her 'radical socialist' beliefs by declining to publicly debate the freshman from Georgia."
“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?” The object of her taunts didn't stop, "only turning around once and throwing her hands in the air in an exasperated motion. The two reporters were not close enough to hear what the New York congresswoman said, and her office declined to discuss her specific response."
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Bipartisan postal-reform bill includes provision to let papers send many more sample copies in their home counties
|Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and U.S. Rep. James|
Comer, R-Ky. (Photo from Government Executive)
A three-line section of the bill, labeled "Rural newspaper sustainability," would let papers mail many more sample copies to non-subscribers in their home counties at the same rate they pay the Postal Service to deliver papers to subscribers. The current limit is 10 percent of annual home-county circulation; the bill would make it 50%.
The 10% limit has been in federal law "for more than a century," said the National Newspaper Association, which lobbied for the change as part of a broader reform of the Postal Service. NNA Chair Brett Wesner, an Oklahoma publisher, said the provision would help small newspapers recruit subscribers.
As newspaper circulation has declined, papers reach the sample-copy limit sooner, said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, which publishes The Rural Blog. He said the higher limit would make papers more attractive vehicles for advertising and public service, as some have done with sample-copy editions in the pandemic.
NNA said it was "cautiously optimistic that the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021 would finally clear the many hurdles to enactment." It thanked the sponsors "for recognizing the need of community newspapers to regain subscribers lost to poor postal service and the effects of the pandemic."
The bill is sponsored by the leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has postal issues in its jurisdiction. The chair is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York; the ranking Republican is Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who pushed for the sample-copy provision. Comer said the bill, combined with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's 10-year plan, 'will help put USPS on the road to fiscal stability, make it more efficient and sustainable for generations, and ensure continued service to the American people."
UPDATE, May 13: The committee approved the bill without amendments, then moved on to a related bill with more contentious issues such as mailed ballots. Comer told the panel, "In this bill, Republicans have ensured rural Americans continue to have access to their local newspapers and not be forced to pick up a national paper because the local paper went bankrupt."
The committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday, a session that may reveal dissension in both parties over issues that have long been contentious. The bill is co-sponsored by Government Operations Committee Chair Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).
The bill would continue the mandate for six-day delivery, a major concern in rural areas. It would require the Postal Service to have an online, publicly available dashboard to track its performance. Maloney said that adds "transparency to ensure the Postal Service provides the high quality of service Americans expect and deserve." NNA had hoped for specific measurement of on-time rural mail delivery, but it said the dashboard would allow "any person could look up a specific address to determine service performance to that address," so research could measure rural delivery times.
The bill's major financial boost to the Postal Service would be elimination of the "2006 mandate to fund retiree health benefits well into the future, a significant cost for USPS, at least on paper. The agency has defaulted on billions of dollars in annual payments to the retiree health fund," Jory Heckman of Federal News Network reports. "The legislation would require postal employees to enroll in Medicare when they turn 65. The bill wouldn’t require current retirees to enroll, but would give them a three-month grace period from late-enrollment penalties if they opt to do so."
UPDATE: NNA issued a news release in which Wessner said, "“This bill does not give us everything we want, nor one thing we really need, which is some assurance of postage rate stability,” Wesner said. “But it does open the door for much-needed postal reform and it sets us on a path for refinements as a bill moves through Congress. What is most important to us is that Congress acts and acts quickly to shore up universal service. The very real effects of the delays on Capitol Hill are being felt in our business, as we lose subscribers to poor service and we are forced to recognize that the mail system has become much less dependable than in the past. To the extent this deterioration is because of USPS’s financial weakness, it is incumbent upon Congress to get moving to help fix it.”
Commercial fishing crews are fighting mask mandates they say are impractical and unsafe.
In February the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required that anyone on public transportation wear a mask, and the Coast Guard applied that to all vessels, including small commercial fishing crews, Paige Winfield Cunningham reports for The Washington Post.
In a hearing with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Tuesday, Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., asked CDC director Rochelle Walensky to change the rule. "Not only is a wet mask dangerous out on the open water — these guys are used to relying on sign language on the boat, and with the mask it’s a real safety issue," Hassan said. Murkowski said fishermen had told her they only wore masks because they worried about getting caught by the Coast Guard and fined or otherwise penalized."Walensky seemed aware of the issue during yesterday’s hearing but didn’t give any specific answers. She said the agency is working on new agency guidance," Cunningham reports.
Some rural areas in East run short of gasoline from panic buying after cyberattack on major pipeline
|The Clinton County News in Albany, Ky., ran these photos of lines at local gas pumps.|
Rural areas, which are more likely to be at or near the end of fuel-truck routes and have many long commuters who fill their tanks more than once a week, have seen panic buying due to the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline from a Russian cyberattack, and some are running short.
"More than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel," The Associated Press reports. "Government officials acted swiftly to waive safety and environmental rules to speed the delivery of fuel by truck, ship or rail to motorists and airports, even as they sought to assure the public that there was no cause for alarm."
"Gasoline has been in short supply at stations in several Southern Kentucky towns," reports Lexington's WKYT. "It started Monday in Clinton County, then spread to Wayne County." Both are on the Tennessee border and get most if not all of their wholesale fuel from Tennessee. The Clinton County News headlined, "Out of gas: Monday's run at local pumps leaves tanks empty."
New rural coronavirus infections fell 12% last week, to lowest level since July 2020, when surges began
|Rate of new coronavirus infections, by county, May 2-8|
Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version
Last week, there were 27,502 new coronavirus cases in rural areas, a 12 percent drop from the previous week's total of 42,462 — the lowest level seen since July. Likewise, additional deaths related to Covid-19 fell 14% to 677 from the previous week's 734 deaths."The declines in cases and deaths came as rural counties surpassed 4.5 million total cases of Covid-19 and 90,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic early in 2020," Tim Murphy and Tim Marema report for The Daily Yonder.
Click here for more data, charts and analysis from the Yonder, including regional analysis and an interactive map with county-level data.
- Dig a new, deeper well
- Sell the property if digging a new well is unaffordable
- Divert or haul water from alternative sources like a nearby river or lake
- Reduce water use to slow or halt groundwater level declines
- Limit or abandon activities that require a lot of water, such as irrigation
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Farmers seek specifics from Biden administration on carbon-cutting agriculture measures, which could be pricey
Residents in a rural Maine community—including a veteran journalist—pitch in to save the local monthly paper
|Harpswell is in Cumberland County, Maine,|
across Casco Bay from Portland. (Wikipedia)
Fisherman Bob Anderson ran the Harpswell Anchor for 22 years, mostly as a one-man operation. He never had to solicit ads because people usually brought them to him. "Sadly though, after the pandemic arrived and most happenings in this fishing community on Casco Bay were put on hold, Anderson decided to stop the presses," Iovino reports. "That was in October. But by the end of 2020, a group of residents felt the loss of their community news source was too big of a blow, and started working on a way to bring the Anchor back to life."
One big help was nearby resident Doug Warren, who grew up nearby and retired there after a 32-year career at The Portland Press Herald, The Miami Herald, and The Boston Globe. "In a short amount of time, Warren and this group of concerned residents were able to put together enough funds [about $30,000] to purchase from Anderson the name, archives, website and other pieces of the now-defunct Anchor, and are planning to revive it as a nonprofit publication by the end of this month," Iovino reports.
The group plans to fund the publication through ads, donations and grants, and is revamping the website. In an effort to secure more community support, they also sent a survey to every household in the area to ask what kind of stories they want to see the Anchor cover. Meanwhile, they're looking for a full-time editor, though Warren is pinch-hitting for now. Read more here.
Covid roundup: FAQs about Pfizer vaccine for tweens; stories from all over rural America about vaccine hesitancy
Here's a roundup of recent news about the pandemic and vaccination efforts:
The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has just been approved for ages 12 and up. It was once more difficult to obtain in rural areas than other vaccines, but recent shipping adjustments have helped make it more accessible. Read more here.
During the pandemic, poor infrastructure and medical access exacerbated mental-health problems in rural Colorado. Read more here.
Kentucky adults who get vaccinated at a participating Kroger or Walmart can get a free lottery ticket. Read more here.
Montana's state government will offer free vaccines to Canadian truck drivers from Alberta who regularly travel to the U.S. Read more here.
Hospice and long-term care organizations are in talks with the Biden administration to expand palliative care Medicare coverage for long-haul Covid-19 patients. Read more here.
Anderson County, Texas, has the lowest coronavirus vaccine rate in the state, with only 15 percent of residents age 16 and up vaccinated. A local doctor and former mayor has spent months trying to get her rural neighbors vaccinated, but it hasn't been easy because of widespread suspicion. Read more here.
Rural Georgia sees vaccine hesitancy as supply outweighs demand. Read more here.
As vaccine demand dips, community health centers take the lead. Read more here.
Vaccine hesitation drives lower rates in rural Missouri. Read more here.
Families and communities are divided over the vaccine in rural Montana. Read more here.
Rural community colleges could get a financial boost from restoration of Pell grant access to prisoners
Package looks back on meatpacking workers through the pandemic, what's happening now, and what's next
The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has done an outstanding job reporting on the meatpacking industry over the past year. Now, they've published a large package that looks back on the pandemic's effect on workers, what's happening now, and what they predict for the future.
The package includes a timeline, stories from workers in their own words, first-person retrospectives from the reporters, and more. It's a worthy read.
Monday, May 10, 2021
Rural N.C. publisher starts journalism nonprofit to cover issues in four poor counties, gets $495,000 grant
|Les High (photo provided)|
|The Border Belt (NNA map)|
The workshop is open only to AHCJ members, but it's easy to register, and memberships are $60 a year for most. "Judging from past such workshops, it will be worth the price of membership," says Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog, and editor and publisher of Kentucky Health News. Click here for more information about the workshop and how you can sign up.
Police reform is a hot topic. Metropolitan police departments have gotten most of the attention, but most police forces serve smaller communities, and the smaller size may make reform more difficult.
"Experts say that while smaller departments have their benefits, including being able to adapt to their communities and hire officers with local ties, these agencies also are typically able to avoid the accountability being sought as part of the national movement to restructure and improve policing," Mark Berman reports for The Washington Post. "These departments’ often limited resources and the decentralized structure of American law enforcement complicate efforts to mandate widespread training and policy changes, experts say."
At 3 p.m. May 11, the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service will host a free webinar to go over the newly released Commodity Costs and Returns estimates. From the website: "Updated twice a year, these estimates are useful for informing stakeholders, including policymakers, agribusiness, and researchers, of current and historical costs and returns associated with major U.S. commodities. The estimates are also featured in numerous ERS reports and serve as the basis for research."
During the webinar, ERS economist Samantha Padilla will provide an overview of the Commodity Costs and Returns data and walk participants through accessing and using the data product. Click here for more information or to register for the webinar.
Saturday, May 08, 2021
Eula Hall, one of the best friends the poor in E. Ky. ever had, dies at 93; one of the region's saints, congressman says
|Hall is the subject of this book, published in 2013. In the cover|
photo, she stands in her clinic's ruins after a fire destroyed it.
For an Appalshop film about Hall and her clinic, chick here.
“Nothing comes easy up on Mud Creek,” Hall’s longtime friend and ally, former Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “It was always a fight.”
Hall's congressman, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, said in a release, “Eula Hall was one of Eastern Kentucky’s greatest saints. . . . Driven by her own experience with poverty, Eula dedicated her life to ensuring every person had access to medical care, regardless of their ability to pay for services or prescriptions. She pioneered hope on Mud Creek and far beyond the borders of Floyd County. When I called Eula on her 90th birthday, she was doing what she loved most: working at the clinic that she transformed from a home-grown operation into a modern facility with state-of-the-art equipment. She will always be a legend in Kentucky’s Appalachian region and an inspiration to never stop serving those around us.”
Friday, May 07, 2021
UN says methane emissions need a 40-45% cut by 2030; The Economist says it's the big, low-hanging fruit for climate
|Illustration by Alvaro Dominguez for The Economist|
|Chart by The Economist; for a larger version, click on it.|
Rural telecoms, others ask FCC to delay T-Mobile's killing of Boost Mobile, a 3G service many rural residents use
The network is Boost Mobile. It was once a Sprint service, but was sold to Dish Network so T-Mobile and Sprint could begin merging last year without running afoul of anti-trust laws. As part of the merger, T-Mobile agreed to help set up Dish as an independent wireless carrier, but now T-Mobile wants to shut down the 3G network that many Boost/Dish customers rely on by early next year, Allison Johnson reports for The Verge. In essence, T-Mobile was forced to create a future competitor, and is now kneecapping that competitor.
That will likely hurt many low-income rural residents. More than half of Boost's 9.4 million customers use its very low-cost prepaid service, which allows them access to older, slower 3G wireless. Boost customers using the 3G service "are likely doing so not because they prefer it, but because they can’t afford a new phone. In less than a year, they’ll be forced to choose between making that purchase or losing their current cell service altogether," Hill reports. "Bearing disproportionate effects of the pandemic and related economic fallout, it’s likely not a great time for these customers to be shopping for a new phone. Dish also points out that the global chip shortage makes it an especially bad time to try to secure a large number of new devices for customers."
Wind farms bring rural schools new tax money, but state laws often steer it to facilities rather than cutting class sizes
|Wind turbines loom over Okarche Elementary in Oklahoma. (Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman)|
Property-tax revenue from wind farms has benefitted many rural schools, but "because of the complexity of how schools are financed, the impact on student achievement is limited, according to a new study that we conducted as researchers in public finance, education economics and energy policy," Eric Brunner, Ben Hoen, and Joshua Hyman write for The Conversation. Brunner is a University of Connecticut economics and policy professor, Hoen is a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory research scientist, and Hyman is an Amherst College assistant economics professor.
Wind power is increasing. In 2020, more than 1,600 farms with nearly 68,000 turbines generated over 100 gigawatts of electricity—about 7 percent of U.S. energy needs. "The industry is continuing to grow rapidly, with another 200 gigawatts of projects applying for grid connections as of the end of 2020," Brunner, Hoen and Hyman report. "With all this rural development come property tax revenues. Wind projects paid an estimated $1.6 billion in property tax revenues to states and local jurisdictions in 2019."
The money is welcome in cash-strapped rural school districts, but Brunner, Hoen and Hyman wanted to find out how much it was really benefitting schools. Their research found a mixed bag: "Wind energy installations led to large increases in local revenues to school districts," they write. "Schools dramatically increased spending on capital outlays, such as buildings and equipment, but made only modest increases to their operating budgets, like hiring more teachers to reduce class size."
The authors note that smaller class sizes improves student achievement, and wanted to know why many districts spent new revenue on building or repairing facilities instead of hiring more teachers to reduce class size. They discovered that local and state tax laws often give schools a strong financial incentive to put new revenue into construction and renovation instead of teachers and operations. Read more here.
Quick hits: Black Appalachian music; cicada cooking; long-term agricultural issues; longing for your hometown
|Want a snack? Cicadas could be on the menu. |
(Washington Post photo by Allison Dinner)
President Biden has a 23 percent approval rating among white evangelicals, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. In general, Biden's approval rating among various religious affiliations is nearly the reverse of former President Trump's at the same point in his presidency. Read more here.
Insects could be the wave of the future for cheap protein in animal feed. But if you want to give it a whirl yourself, here's how to catch and cook cicadas (which will soon be plentiful as the Brood X batch surfaces after 17 years). Read more here.
A new study evaluates how laws banning tobacco-product sales to people under 21 have affected electronic cigarette use in rural and urban youth. Read more here.
The Agricultural Economic Insights team lists of the top 10 "front burner" issues that could affect the farm economy for years to come. That includes the pandemic, lingering effects of African swine fever, child nutrition policy, and immigrant-related farm-labor issues. Read the rest here.
A lawsuit by doctors who advocate plant-based diets claims Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines are driven by meat and dairy marketing concerns, not nutrition. Read more here.
More small towns are offering cash bonuses and more to attract new residents. Read more here.
Kids with a desk and a quiet place to study do better in school, research shows. Read more here.
Research shows that California's carbon-credit system actually allowed polluters to add millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Read more here.
The Smoky Mountain Air podcast is kicking off a new series exploring Black Appalachian music. Listen to the first episode here.
Apply for one of these science, health and environmental reporting fellowships by 6 p.m. ET May 10.
New author Rainesford Stauffer reflects in The Atlantic on how she couldn't wait to move away from Owensboro, Ky., pop. 55,000, when she was a teenager, but has found herself longing for it ever since. Many small-town natives move to big cities in their 20s, she writes, but wonders if they might find just as much fulfillment from staying home. Read more here.
The Justice Department says the federal government never instructed Tyson Foods to keep its plants open in the early months of the pandemic. That's according to documents in a federal lawsuit against the department from four relatives of meatpacking workers who died from Covid-19. It many have broad implications for similar lawsuits elsewhere. Read more here.
Covid roundup: Low vaccination rates among police risk public health; some places offering kooky freebies with a jab
Here's a roundup of recent news about the pandemic and vaccination efforts:
Many police are refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine, and departments aren't making them. The low immunization levels could put public health at risk, experts say. Read more here.
Fully vaccinated seniors are 94 percent less likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19, according to newly released findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more here.
White House officials and public-health experts recently held an online focus group aimed at better understanding what motivated former vaccine skeptics to get immunized. Read more here.
Real-world data from 385,000 vaccinated people in Qatar shows that the Pfizer vaccine offers strong protection against key variants of concern. Read more here.
Cities and states are using oddball incentives in an effort to get more people vaccinated, offering freebies that range from alcohol, donuts and marijuana to free target practice at a shooting range. Read more here.
The Daily Yonder reports on efforts to deliver vaccine information through extension offices.
Thursday, May 06, 2021
Rent debt 'is significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels,' analysis says; see interactive state- and county-level data
"Renters across the U.S. are facing increased rent debt, with 14 percent of all renter households behind on payments. That is significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels based on an analysis released by the National Equity Atlas and Right to City Alliance," Brent Woodie reports for Route Fifty. "Among those who have fallen behind on rent payments, 76% are people who lost employment during the pandemic. Plus, 78% of low-income households making less than $50,000 per year have struggled to keep up with rent payments along with 63% of renters of color. This makes renters more vulnerable to eviction and a rise of other forms of debt like credit cards, utilities and car payments, according to the report."
More than 5 million Americans are behind on rent, owing an estimated $3,400 in renters' debt per household, or $19.75 billion nationwide. "When examined by state, renters in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Alaska and Georgia have the highest percentage of housing debt. On the other hand, Utah, Maine, Ohio, Idaho and Kansas are states with the lowest," Woodie reports. The share of renters with debt appears to be declining as the nation reopens.
You can see regularly updated national-, state- and county-level data for the project on an interactive data visualization tool called the Rent Debt Dashboard.
The December stimulus-and-relief package had $25 billion to help pay up to a year of back-rent, and the recent $1.9 trillion package gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to help people pay one month's utilities and mortgage or rent to help prevent evictions and service cut-offs.
Elise Stefanik, likely Cheney successor in House leadership, has rural district but questionable rural bona fides
|Rep. Elise Stefanik|
|New York U.S. House District 21 (GovTrack map, adapted)|
Stefanik "has regularly echoed Trump’s falsehoods" and made false claims about the Senate runoff elections in Georgia, reports Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post.
Small-town leaders say some tech practices for constituent service adopted during the pandemic are here to stay
In a recent survey, local government leaders from mostly small and midsize communities said they believe the coronavirus pandemic "will have a lasting impact on the way they deliver services to constituents. But the day-to-day work of municipal governing probably won’t change forever," Kate Queram reports for Route Fifty.
The New Normal Survey, conducted online from March 24 to April 7, asked local government officials to share their predictions about how public services will evolve because of the pandemic; 599 officials completed it. They were asked about their government's priorities and how those changed, the pandemic's impact on the local economy, adoption of new technology, and general questions about the future, Queram reports. The survey is a collaborative effort from organizations that work with local governments: The Atlas, Engaging Local Government Leaders, CivicPulse, CivicPlus and Route Fifty. It's a follow-up to a similar survey from last summer that asked about initial changes in service delivery during the early months of the pandemic."According to the results, priorities in local government agencies have shifted dramatically since 2020. Last July, for example, 43 percent of survey respondents said they were prioritizing 'work from home and workflow management;' by last month, that number had dropped to 28%. By contrast, 44% of respondents this year said they were focused on community engagement, a 14% jump from last year," Queram reports. "Despite those shifts, most respondents said they expected their governments to continue to prioritize pandemic-related issues up to a year from now, including community engagement (50%), small business support (38%) and public health and wellness (33%)."
Rural chef is 'queen of the food scene' in Kentucky and recognized nationally; webinar tonight to discuss cookbook
|Ouita Michel (Photo by Rob Bolson)|
Biden's 30x30 conservation plan is not as extreme as some Republicans claim, Tennessee agricultural economists write
Wednesday, May 05, 2021
A little moderation on masks could go a long way in rural areas, Kentucky writer tells a national audience
I live on a small lake. On Sunday afternoon, my next-door neighbor (a Trump supporter) came over to help us back our boat trailer into the woods. The first thing he said was, “I’m vaccinated! I can hug you now!” After we finished with the trailer, as we talked about coming out of the pandemic and having an outdoor party to celebrate, he said, “Okay, what’s this whole thing about wearing masks outside — outside! — after the shots? It’s such complete bull----. For crying out loud, if they want people to trust the vaccine, they need to give people a reason to get the vaccine besides how much it will help everybody else.”
White House refocusing efforts to raise rural coronavirus vaccination rates; see latest rural infection and death rates
|Percent of rural population completely vaccinated|
Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version
The federal government will put more focus on rural communities "in an effort to get more Americans vaccinated by July 4, the White House announced Tuesday," Liz Carey reports for The Daily Yonder. "The announcement says the Biden administration is raising the goal for vaccinations to get at least one shot into the arms of 70 percent of American adults, and for 160 million U.S. adults to be fully vaccinated by July 4." About 95 million of Americans 18 and up, or 45%, were fully vaccinated as of May 1; metropolitan counties have a 29.7% vaccination rate, compared to 26% in other counties."To raise the rural vaccination rate, the administration will send vaccines directly to rural health clinics in underserved communities and provide $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding for 4,600 rural health clinics to use for vaccine outreach in rural communities," Carey reports. "Additionally, the Health Resources and Services Administration will provide rural health clinics and rural hospitals with $860 million to broaden Covid-19 mitigation efforts. The funding amounts to about $100,000 for each of the rural health clinics and $230,000 for each of the 1,730 rural hospitals.