Spotlight Exclusives

In Final Weeks, Obama Administration Touts Rural Anti-Poverty Efforts

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

As the Obama administration enters its final few weeks, the White House is working to cement key parts of President Obama’s legacy that may be challenged under President-elect Donald Trump. Today, the White House Domestic Policy Council released material touting the USDA’s Rural Development initiative, which has worked to direct federal funding for job training and infrastructure to rural communities that need it most.

Katherine Ferguson, a special assistant to the President and Chief of Staff of the White House Domestic Policy Council, writes that USDA has worked for the last eight years in areas like southeast Kentucky, where poverty rates exceed 30 percent and many coal industry workers have seen their jobs disappear. The Rural Development initiative boosted investment in high-poverty rural areas by $2.5 billion over the last three years, according to Ferguson.

Rural Development programs include training for local organizations to more effectively reach people in deep poverty; prioritizing grant applications from high-need communities; and working to better identify pockets of deep poverty throughout the United States. For the latter effort, USDA drew from proposals from Democrats and Republicans, including Rep. James Clyburn’s (R-SC) “10-20-30” approach.

The White House’s highlighting of these efforts comes in the wake of an election that brought renewed attention and political power to the rural poor, most of whom voted for President-elect Trump. Trump has promised to bring millions of jobs to those regions.

With this final push to publicize its work on rural poverty – especially in Trump-friendly states – the Obama administration seems to be pushing back on the post-election narrative that it has “forgotten” certain groups of Americans.

So far, it’s unclear how a Trump administration will handle the USDA Rural Development initiative, or whether it will continue at all. Spotlight will continue to monitor how the 115th Congress and Trump White House approaches the issue of rural poverty.

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