As lawmakers haggled over a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to help the U.S. overcome the coronavirus pandemic, the National Farmers Union expressed concerned about the lasting mark COVID-19 will leave on rural America.
The bill approved Wednesday is the most expensive in the country’s history. It includes direct payments to individual, $130 billion for hospitals, $14 billion to support family farmers and ranchers, $150 billion for local and state government and $300 billion for small businesses. On top of that, the stimulus package allocates funding for SNAP, rural broadband, and rural health resources.
NFU President Rob Larew said he is extremely concerned about the public health and financial implications this pandemic will have on rural and ag communities. He noted on top of mind for most rural Americans is the health and well-being of their families and neighbors.
“Rural hospitals have historically been overlooked and underfunded, leaving most without the equipment or personnel they need to handle an onslaught of critically ill patients. This is particularly concerning as rural citizens are, on average, older and more likely to have other health conditions, making them more vulnerable to the virus.”
Larew continued though public health is the most immediate and pressing matter, family farmers and ranchers are worried about their long-term financial stability as well.
“Many were already strained after a multi-year farm economy crisis and a global trade war. Now markets are evaporating as restaurants and schools shutter and exports stall. Farm labor is in short supply with borders closed and visa processing at a standstill. And falling commodity prices are quickly eroding farm income. If these disruptions continue, many operations won’t be able to last more than a few months.”
Larew said while the stimulus package will address many of the NFU’s most urgent concerns, he’s looking forward to learning addition details about the assistance offered to the rural health care system.
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