What I Would Have Said Today to Vice President Biden about the Recovery Act
Somedays being a Cabinet member, you have to be flexible. Today is one of those days. While in New Orleans to speak to the Renewable Fuel Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, I traveled to the Port of New Orleans to attend an event with Vice President Biden. The Vice President scheduled an event at the port to highlight the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Vice President is the most logical person to celebrate the anniversary of ARRA achievements since he led the historic effort on behalf of the Administration. I was to be one of the warm-up acts for Vice President Biden, but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to leave before the program started. Out of respect for the Vice President’s effort to lead the Administration’s implementation of ARRA, I had planned to highlight for him the enormous investment made in rural America as a result of ARRA. If I had been able to stay, I would have pointed to these 6 big investments by USDA:
1. 254 broadband expansion projects that are improving access to high speed broadband for over 260,000 households and 17,500 businesses. One of those businesses is a grain elevator in North Carolina I visited several years ago that is now able to provide up-to-the-second market prices for producers.
2. 820 water and wastewater treatment projects that are providing cleaner water to over 2.8 million rural residents. One of those residents was a 80-year-old woman in Georgia that had running water in her home for the first time in her life.
3. 1053 community facilities built, including 312 schools and libraries, 178 health care facilities, and 563 public safety operations. One of those health care facilities was in Pocahontas, Iowa where folks can now recruit new businesses by displaying state of the art health care services.
4. 479 businesses helped by ARRA to create jobs in rural America. One of those small businesses is located in Napoleonville, Louisiana, and is now employing 35 people.
5. 92,000 single family loans that enabled families to enjoy the pride of homeownership. One of those families is a Native American family who welcomed me to their new home in New Mexico.
6. 45 million people received the benefit of increased SNAP benefits, which cut the poverty rate among children by more than 50 percent during the recovery.
The Recovery Act helped move the country from near depression to 71 consecutive months of private sector job growth — the longest period in history. In rural areas for the first time in 25 years, we have agriculture related employment exceeding 1.4 million and median family farm household income at record levels. With the Vice President’s leadership, the Recovery Act moved quickly to bring needed investment to create a brighter and more hopeful future for all Americans.
Cover photo: Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland. The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.