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Hladik: Infrastructure package a boon to rural America

The infrastructure package approved by Congress promises to reach every corner of the country, and for rural America, funding for water, sewer, internet and electrical projects figures to have the most impact.

An $11.7 billion annual increase in clean water and drinking water revolving funds will assist small towns in making much-needed water and sewage system upgrades. The federal-state partnership provides low-interest loans to eligible communities to improve their water and sewer systems or fund other necessary water quality projects.

With internet access becoming a critical component of everyday life, the package also includes $48.2 billion in broadband funding appropriated to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The funding will be used to help lower the price households pay for internet service and boost competition in under-served areas. It requires, among other things, that recipients offer a low-cost plan and maintain price transparency.

As more communities and utilities look to renewable energy, having a robust transmission system is key to linking those systems to homes and businesses. The infrastructure plan provides a $65 billion investment to rebuild the electrical grid, which will make it easier to develop renewable energy in areas now far from a grid connection.

A safe and healthy water system, affordable broadband access and a reliable electric grid are basic elements we all depend on. As state and federal officials undertake the hard work of developing programs and identifying projects, local leaders can begin to solicit feedback and generate ideas. Communities must have strong infrastructure in place in order to sustain and grow, and we urge everyone to participate in this generational opportunity.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and rural communities.

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