City Mouse, Country Mouse: Two New Reports On ARRA Spending

March 25, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

In tight economic times, the differences between rural and urban communities can seem more pronounced and communities can feel like they are engaged in a battle to ensure that their needs receive priority.

Two recent government reports from the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture outlined how American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds were utilized in cities and rural communities.

According to HUD’s analysis, urban centers received 40 percent of the available Recovery Act money.

HUD’s report notes that urban cities face a wide range of challenges, some of which are unique to cities and others that affect communities of all sizes.  Those challenges include increasing fuel and utility costs; longer, more expensive commutes; a growing achievement gap among school-age children; lack of access to job-training for adults; lack of access to quality healthcare; and a lack or loss of good-paying jobs close to affordable housing.

According to the USDA’s recent report, only about 16 percent of Americans (50 million people) currently live in rural areas, but rural communities comprise more than 70 percent of the area of the U.S.

The USDA report examined some of the unique challenges faced by rural areas. For example, non-metropolitan counties have an average 1.2 doctors per 1,000 residents, as compared to 3 doctors for every 1,000 residents in metropolitan counties. Some ARRA funding was directed at addressing such  gaps, including $530 million to support 178 rural healthcare facilities.

The push/pull between rural and urban dwellers and communities may or may not be as serious as some say, but it has certainly been getting some press lately. A recent Washington Post column by Ezra Klein suggested that cities make us richer and more innovative.

And a very interesting post on The Rural Blog recently highlighted some conversations happening around whether certain farm subsidy programs are actually decreasing rural populations.

It’s an interesting quandary.

Is it more efficient to invest federal dollars where the population concentration is greatest, i.e., urban centers? Or should we be focusing on rural areas that face a lack of services precisely because they are less densely populated? Is it necessarily (or inevitably) an either/or situation?

Something to think about.

Subscribers to Local/State Funding Report will be able to read more about the HUD and USDA reports in their April 4 issue.

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