MEIGS COUNTY — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on Friday announced a new federal anti-poverty initiative that will expand to 11 counties in Ohio, including Meigs.
This initiative is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is called the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. According to Brown, this initiatve identifies local and regional challenges and hopes to solve them by connecting local partners with federal resources to help fight what Brown refers to as “chronic poverty.”
“The small towns and rural communities in Meigs County showcase our state’s diverse strengths and opportunities for growth,” Brown said. “But they face unique challenges — like aging infrastructure — and are often isolated from important resources that build wealth and encourage economic success. The StrikeForce initiative takes a tailored approach to address this vacuum by engaging with local partners who know the community and deploying targeted federal resources to solve regional and county-specific problems.”
USDA statistics show that one-third of Americans living in rural areas and one-in-four children living in rural areas are living in poverty, with 85 percent of the United States’ “persistent poverty” counties located in rural America. The USDA defines a county as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more residents in the county were living in poverty over the last 30 years.
According to the USDA, children raised in families earning twice the poverty threshold are nearly three times as likely as other children to have poor health, more likely to complete two fewer years of school and more likely to earn half as much money over the course of their adult lives.
Perry Varnadoe, of Meigs County Economic Development, said this is a necessary and welcome resource.
“The USDA StrikeForce Initiative will bring additional resources and technical support to Meigs County,” he said. “We look forward to working with USDA to focus on rural infrastructure needs that are often difficult to fund but just as necessary here as they are in urban areas. USDA has been a wonderful partner for projects in our community over the years and we are excited that this program has come to Ohio and Meigs County.”
According to Brown, the USDA began the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative in 2010 to increase opportunities for rural Americans by partnering with businesses, foundations, universities, faith-based organizations and other community groups, which can provide technical assistance to help rural communities solve problems and increase regional strengths.
Brown said in 2015 alone that these partnerships have helped the USDA support more than 188,000 projects, which in turn has helped produce $23.8 billion in investments in those areas in the United States with high poverty rates.
Randy Smith, Meigs County Commissioner, also praised the initiative making its way to Meigs County.
”It’s great when federal level officeholders recognize the potential and challenges of rural Ohio and are willing to help,” he said.
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555.