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KNAU and Arizona News

Senate bill would create White House office dedicated to rural economic development

Monument Valley Navajo Nation
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File
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This 2018 file photo shows Monument Valley, Utah. Backers of legislation under consideration in Congress to create an Office of Rural Prosperity say rural and tribal communities in areas like northern Arizona often struggle to access more than 400 federal programs dedicated to economic development that are spread out over more than a dozen federal agencies and 50 offices and subagencies.

A bipartisan bill under consideration in Congress would create a White House office dedicated solely to rural economic development. Supporters say it would simplify the process for receiving federal assistance outside of heavily populated areas.

If the bipartisan bill becomes law, the Office of Rural Prosperity would be a permanent fixture in the West Wing. It would coordinate more than 400 federal programs and grants for education, small business development, broadband and infrastructure, among other areas.

Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is a sponsor of the bill and says having the office in the White House would elevate the importance of rural issues.

"Folks in rural areas are often treated to some extent unfairly by the federal government," says Kelly. "So the idea here is, put this in the White House, a permanent office that’ll be the equivalent of the one-stop-shop here to get rural communities the support they need."

Kelly and other backers of the legislation say rural and tribal communities in areas like northern Arizona often struggle to access the programs that are spread out over more than a dozen federal agencies and 50 offices and subagencies. They hope consolidating those programs into one place will create jobs and make health care and education more accessible.

The Office of Rural Prosperity would be led by a director appointed by the president who’d be responsible for coordinating development efforts. The office would be funded through congressional appropriations.