Shelton’s Plan for Rural Nebraska
We need to do all we can to support those who put food on our tables. Farmers do not take days off and cannot get out of the fields even when the country is dealing with a global pandemic. Our farmers need a voice, and I plan to be that voice in the Senate. I will work across the aisle to ensure that they make the money, and get the health care that they deserve. I have laid out my plan below:
I. Invest into rural Nebraska: As a mental health therapist I have travelled across the state to work with those who struggled with all kinds of problems. I have seen first hand the divide across the state, from Omaha to Scottsbluff. Rural communities are vital to our economy, and I have laid out my plan for them:
Ensure every Nebraskan has internet access at their home and. business.
Over 217,000 Nebraskans lack high speed internet service. That is why we need a bold plan that will tackle this issue to combat our digital divide. This will not only bring internet to thousands of Nebraskan homes, but also create jobs across the state. It is vital that we close this digital divide, and I am committed to getting every household in Nebraska high speed internet by 2024. This will be delivered by increased funding through incentives to current providers, and increasing grants for rural communities across Nebraska.
Strengthen Rural Hospitals.
Medicare for All will not help rural hospitals due to pre planning efforts that the government must do in the prior fiscal year. In my first 100 days, I will propose a plan that is focused on rural health care. It will focus on creating new sections within Medicare to aid rural hospitals that have outpatient care or community clinics in addition to an emergency room. This will increase funding for the states’ medicare program and could result in expansion funding. As a mental health therapist it is important to me that Nebraskans, especially in rural areas, have access to counselors and other health professionals needed in times of stress or anxiety. My plan will call for increased funding for rural hospitals who have a mental health professional on payroll for at least 30 hrs/week. I will also call on the DOT to create a new task force for creating new rural medical facilities for those towns that need more support. I am supportive of the bi-partisan bill, Save Rural Hospitals Act which includes funding for what I have laid out and more for Nebraska.
Investing in rural education.
In 2019, Nebraska was ranked 25th when it comes to educator salaries. According to Nebraska State Education Association President, Jenni Benson, Nebraska went up on the list because other states had salary deductions. In Scottsbluff, the median salary of a teacher is 10% below the national average, coming in at about $38,000. I will work tirelessly to ensure that our teachers’ salaries go up across the state. Our elected officials have not done enough to revitalize our children’s education so that they are career ready in a 21st century economy. That is why I will introduce a new bill in the Senate calling for increased funding for STEM programs to rural schools, and ensuring that technology is up to date in our children’s classrooms. This bill will also call for increased funding for free or reduced lunches in rural school districts.
Helping new farmers get ahead.
So many new farmers rely on the USDA MicroLoan Program, which allows new farmers to get up to a $50,000 loan to start up their farm. I am supportive of Vice-President Biden’s plan to double the MicroLoan program to $100,000. I will also work with the Secretary of Agriculture to research a new tax break for the first 5 years that farmers start their new endeavour.
Supporting Women in Agriculture.
32% of farming producers in Nebraska are women, only 4% lower than the national average. While in the senate, I will call for increased funding for the USDA, to investigate how the Federal Government can support female farmers & ranchers. I will also call for a taskforce to be created so that more women can get involved in Agriculture.
Protecting our rural environments.
It is vital that we do all we can to protect our earth and environment. Rural communities play a vital role in that. That is why I will work with the EPA to ensure that factory farms are in compliance with the Clean Air Act, and that appropriate funding is being transmitted to communities who lack funding for additional expenditures to keep our environment safe. I will also demand that the USDA recognize regenerative farming, so that our soil health is adequate for reuse and will be transformational for Nebraskan farmers.
The Essential Air Service is a federal program that aids smaller regional airports who provide commercial air service. Nebraska is fortunate to have seven airports under this program and gets over $17.7 million per year from the DOT. I will work with regional and commercial airlines to provide additional destinations for Nebraskans.
The current administration has put Nebraskan farmers’ income on the line after deciding to increase tariff rates by 10% on $300 Billion worth of imports. China retaliated by not buying U.S. farmer goods, ultimately lowering prices of crops and cutting farmers’ profits by a significant amount. I believe in putting American businesses first, which is why I would talk to expert economists and farmers to see how this would best benefit Americans and Nebraskans. I would also request that the Treasury Department set up a taskforce to ensure that farmers are exporting at the same or higher rates prior to the trade war, and ensure that profits increase for these individuals who are a vital part of the Nebraska economy.