Edwards Outlines Plan To Restore Economic Fairness To Rural New Hampshire


Unveils New Proposals for Rural Communities During Economic Fairness Tour of New Hampshire’s North Country

Manchester, New Hampshire, Sep 27, 2007 – Today, Senator John Edwards kicked off an “Economic Fairness for the North Country” barnstorm and unveiled his plans for Restoring Economic Fairness to Rural New Hampshire.

“I grew up in a small rural town, so I’ve seen firsthand how the problems of rural America too often are forgotten by politicians living and working in far-off capital cities,” said Edwards. “This campaign is about fixing the broken system in Washington and building One America where all of our communities have good schools, good health care and the support systems they need. As president, I won’t turn my back on rural America.”

To restore economic fairness in the North Country and rural areas across America, Edwards unveiled three new initiatives that expand on the Rural Recovery Act he proposed earlier this year:

Give older Americans more choices to help them live independently, including better transportation options, access to home health care, and protection from predatory lenders.

Help rural firefighters by fighting for fair funding levels, ending the Justice Department backlog on death benefits and guaranteeing job protection for volunteers while they are responding to an emergency.

Ensure rural towns have the resources they need to serve their citizens by protecting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program from President Bush’s budget cuts.

“Edwards is the first presidential candidate to offer comprehensive and detailed plans for rural New Hampshire,” said Paul Robitaille, Coos County Democrats chair. “He understands the challenges we face and is not only committed to preserving and strengthening our communities, but has the strength and vision to create the bold change we need in this country.”

During his two-day barnstorm through New Hampshire’s North Country, Edwards will makes stops in Durham, Conway, Berlin, Littleton, and Claremont. He kicked-off the tour with a roundtable discussion about the challenges facing rural and working families at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute. During the Economic Fairness tour, Edwards will be joined by Grammy Award-winning musician Ralph Stanley II, the IBMA award-winning Bluegrass Brothers, and former Democratic Congressman Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” on the Dukes of Hazzard.

Restoring Economic Fairness to Rural New Hampshire

Edwards Outlines His Rural Recovery Act with New Proposals for Rural Seniors and Public Servants

Too often, politicians in Washington have overlooked the challenges facing rural America. Many small towns in New Hampshire and throughout the country are struggling: jobs in rural counties in New Hampshire pay $8,300 less than urban jobs on average. The North Country’s Coos County has the highest poverty rate in the state, and nearly one out of every five county residents is a senior citizen. [USDA, 2005]

Born in a small town, John Edwards understands the struggles of rural families and believes that America cannot turn its back on the rural communities that are the keepers of American values like family, work, community, and freedom. Earlier this year, Edwards proposed a Rural Recovery Act that would restore economic fairness in the North Country and rural areas across America. Today, Edwards proposed three new initiatives to help rural America:

  • Giving older Americans more choices to help them live independently, including better transportation options, access to home health care and protection from predatory lenders.
  • Helping rural firefighters by fighting for fair funding levels, ending the Justice Department backlog on death benefits and guaranteeing job protection for volunteers while they are responding to an emergency.
  • Ensuring that rural towns have the resources they need to serve their citizens by providing their fair share of rural development funding and protecting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program from President Bush’s budget cuts.

A Declaration Of Independence For Rural Seniors

Rural America is aging. In New Hampshire, the North Country has the state’s highest concentration of senior citizens. Seniors in rural areas face unique challenges, from lower incomes to a lack of access to health facilities, medical specialists and transportation options. John Edwards has proposed a Declaration of Independence for America’s rural seniors that would:

Promote Freedom with Accessible Transportation: Particularly in small towns, many seniors lose their independence because they are isolated from supportive services or reliable transportation. Edwards will call on American automakers to make affordable, wheelchair-accessible vehicles. He will also protect funding support public transportation for rural areas, seniors and people with disabilities. Edwards will expand rural services like meals-on-wheels, para-transit shuttle services and volunteer networks of local drivers for seniors and people with disabilities.

Bring Senior Health Specialists to Rural America: Despite an elderly population of over 37 million that will double in less than three decades, the number of certified geriatricians is declining: only 330 doctors nationwide will complete geriatrics training this year. Edwards will reform the way doctors are paid to encourage physicians to go into geriatric primary care and recruit master geriatricians back into the classroom to teach the next generation of specialists—including nurses eligible for scholarships if they practice in rural areas. [Gawande, 2007]

Offer Choice in Long-Term Care: For many rural seniors, nursing homes that cost $75,000 a year are not an option, but they should not be forced to live in isolation or put economic burdens on their families. Edwards’ Living with Dignity initiative will reform Medicaid and Medicare to let people to choose home-based care. He will also take care of the caretakers, building the home health aide profession through better training, pay and collective bargaining rights.

Safeguard Seniors’ Wealth: In New Hampshire, seniors on fixed incomes are vulnerable to the state’s nearly 60 storefront payday lenders, which charge over 300 percent interest on cash advances. Edwards will ban all payday loans at interest rates over 36 percent, which today is basically all of them. He will also form a new federal regulator, the Family Savings and Credit Commission, whose sole job is consumer protection for financial services from mortgages to tax refund loans. [N.H. State Banking Department, 2007]

Helping Rural Firefighters And Other Public Servants

The spirit of volunteerism and public service is an important part of small-town America. Because rural areas have limited tax bases and smaller, more dispersed populations, vital public services often struggle to provide what’s needed. John Edwards will:

Give Back to Rural Firefighters: Rural fire departments are stretched thin, and most small towns rely entirely on volunteers. Edwards will ensure that small-town and volunteer fire departments get the funding and training they deserve by restoring the Rural Fire Assistance program that President Bush has eliminated. He will also expand the homeland security programs – including SAFER and the Fire Grant programs — that help firefighters meet the needs of rural fire departments. He will streamline the process for awarding death benefits to fallen public safety officers, ending the Justice Department’s backlog. Edwards believes that we must both strengthen support for professional firefighters and recognize the contributions of volunteer firefighters who put their lives on the line for little or no pay. He will prevent the IRS from taxing the modest local benefits volunteers may receive for their service and protect firefighters from losing their jobs while responding to emergences, similar to the protection currently offered to National Guard members. [NVFC, 2007]

Rewarding Rural Teachers: Rural schools enroll 40 percent of American children – including most children in New Hampshire – but receive only 22 percent of federal education funding. Edwards will improve pay for teachers in rural and other hard-to-staff schools to help attract quality new and experienced teachers. He will also invest in distance learning to bring the content of the world’s best universities, libraries, and museums to rural areas. Finally, he will reverse the proposed Bush cuts to IDEA special education grants and get Washington on a path to full funding. [RSCT, 2006 and 2007; Digital Promise, 2003; Rural School and Community Trust, 2007]

Valuing Small-Town Nurses: Edwards will pay up to full tuition and fees for 50,000 new students to become nurses. In return, these nurses would commit to serve for at least four years where nurses are in critical short supply, including rural clinics and hospitals. He will also support distance learning initiatives– like the current partnership between the University of New Hampshire and Granite State College – that can help bring advanced training to rural areas. To improve conditions at rural clinics and hospitals, he will rewrite unfair Medicare and Medicaid funding formulas that disadvantage rural providers and invest in telemedicine to connect local doctors and patients with distant specialists and equipment. [Manchester Union-Leader, 8/6/2006]

Guaranteeing Rural America the Funding It Needs: More than half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $70 billion in rural development funds has gone to metropolitan regions, suburbs, and resort towns like Martha’s Vineyard. Edwards will rewrite funding rules to bring resources to needy rural areas. He will also protect the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program – which compensates areas with federally-protected land for lost tax revenue, bringing over $250,000 a year to forest counties in New Hampshire – from cuts like those President Bush has proposed. [Washington Post, 4/6/2007; NACO, 2007]

Restoring Economic Fairness To Rural America

Investing Seed Money for Rural Recovery: Cultivating local small businesses is a promising economic development strategy for rural areas, but only 1 percent of state economic development funds support local entrepreneurs. Edwards will create a Rural Economic Advancement Challenge (REACH) Fund to bring capital and management expertise to small town America. The REACH Fund will connect investors with rural entrepreneurs, organize businesses into networks to help them succeed together, and ensure that rural areas have access to investment capital. [RUPRI, 2007]

Create the New Energy Economy in Rural America: Renewable sources of energy — including biofuels, wind, and solar — can make the U.S. independent of foreign oil, cut global warming pollution, and create new industries in rural America. New Hampshire’s wood-based biomass and other renewable energy potential could bring over 5,000 jobs. Edwards will establish the New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart renewable energies. [Apollo Alliance, 2004]

Enact Smarter Trade Policies: John Edwards’ primary test for new trade deals will be simple: considering its impact on jobs, wages and prices, will it make most families better off? Edwards will insist on strong labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, vigorously enforce American workers’ rights, and help workers and communities hurt by global competition.

Stand Up for Family Farmers: Edwards will enforce laws requiring country-of-origin labeling and preventing anticompetitive mergers and unfair pricing. He will limit farm subsidies to $250,000 per person to help counter the devastating effect of agribusiness on family farms across the country. He will also expand support for conservation programs and fruit and vegetable farming.

Invest in Rural Broadband: Rural households are about half as likely to have a broadband connection. Just as FDR’s rural electrification initiative brought power to every corner of the country, Edwards will set a national broadband policy with a goal of giving all U.S. homes and businesses access to real high-speed internet by 2010. Universal broadband will give rural areas better access to medical care and specialists through tele-medicine facilities. A national broadband map will identify service gaps to encourage investment, Edwards will require telephone and cable companies not to discriminate against rural communities, and set aside a portion of the broadcast spectrum for community providers to improve service in rural areas. [ITU, 2006; CWA, 2006]

Prohibit Banks from Discriminating against Rural America: Rural areas have fewer bank branches and per-capita small business loans than suburban and urban areas, as well as more high-cost mortgages. Edwards will prevent banks from discriminating against rural areas, will increase investment in rural communities, and will pass a strong national law against predatory mortgages. [NCRC, 2007; Carsey Institute, 2006]

Fight for Economic Fairness: One out of every 10 North Country residents lives in poverty. To eliminate poverty nationwide within 30 years, Edwards will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012 and index it to half the average wage. He will also cut taxes for low-wage workers, help workers save, and invest in expanding affordable housing near good jobs and schools. [USDA, 2004]


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