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Lawmakers reintroduce legislation to aid job creation in rural communities

The Rural Jobs Act would build on the success of the New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) and bring hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment to some of the most disadvantaged rural communities in the United States.

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Mike Braun of Indiana reintroduced the legislation last week.

“New Market Tax Credits have proven to be an economic engine for local communities, but too often rural areas are left out of these initiatives,” Warner said. “I’m glad to introduce this legislation to bridge that gap and ensure that rural areas receive the same opportunities that have created good-paying jobs in cities across the country.”

According to Wicker, rural communities deserve a chance to thrive, but chronic lack of investment has left them behind.

“The New Market Tax Credit program has already proven to be a successful way to spur private investment in distressed communities. By expanding the program and ensuring that rural communities receive a proportionate share of the benefits, we can help close the job creation gap and increase economic opportunity,” Wicker said.

Moran said the NMTC produced meaningful results for underserved areas, created thousands of jobs and generated new investments.

“It’s time the credit is put to work for rural Americans. Rural Job Zones will cover the vast majority of rural states like Kansas, giving thousands of small towns the same opportunities as larger cities,” Moran said.

A modest tax incentive is provided by the NMTC to private investors to invest in low-income communities. More than $42 billion in private investment has been generated and one million jobs have been created by the programs’ projects since 2000. However, less than one in four NMTC jobs have been created in rural communities.

The legislation would designate $500 million in NMTC investments for “Rural Job Zones,” which are low-income communities that have a population smaller than 50,000 inhabitants and are not adjacent to an urban area. The new definition in the legislation would establish Rural Job Zones in 342 out of the 435 congressional districts across the country. Twenty-five percent of the new investment activity would be required to be devoted to counties with persistently-high rates of poverty and migration. Approximately 400 counties in the United States face persistent poverty.

“Investment in our rural communities helps create jobs and promote economic opportunity for those in states like Indiana. I am committed to fighting for our rural communities and the Rural Jobs Act would ensure that the NMTC investments will be devoted to places that need it most,” Braun said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.