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Twenty Underserved Counties in West Virginia Named to Rural Partners Network by Biden-Harris Administration

Andrew Stacy
Release Date

The USDA-led Rural Partners Network also expands to Alaska, Nevada, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Ambassador Susan Rice, White House Domestic Policy Advisor, today announced the expansion of the Rural Partners Network (RPN) to four more states and Puerto Rico. The Rural Partners Network now include 20 underserved counties in West Virginia to help rural people create new and lasting economic opportunities. RPN is an all-of-government program that partners with rural people to access resources and funding to create local jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability on their own terms.

The following community networks are being established in West Virginia:

  • Southern West Virginia Community Network coordinated by the West Virginia Community Development Hub including Mingo, Wayne, Lincoln, Boone, Logan, Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers, Fayette counties.
  • West Virginia Pioneer Community Network coordinated by Glenville State University including Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Nicholas, Roane, Webster, and Wirt counties.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring that people in rural communities have every opportunity to succeed – and that they can find those opportunities right at home in rural America,” Vilsack said. “Rural people make up America’s spirit and character and provide the everyday essentials our country depends on. We know that when rural people thrive, America thrives. By expanding the Rural Partners Network, we can help these important but often overlooked communities receive their fair share of government resources to keep rural people and economies prepared for the future.”

“Rural America is full of opportunities, but these vital communities don’t always have a way to navigate federal agencies or access the resources of the government,” said Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice. “The Rural Partners Network is bringing federal staff directly to rural communities to ensure local leaders have access to federal resources as they build strong and vibrant economies.”

“I’m incredibly excited that USDA Rural Development will be the lead federal agency to coordinate the Rural Partners Network (RPN) initiative in West Virginia, said USDA Rural Development West Virginia State Director Ryan Thorn. “At Rural Development, we are advocates for, investors in and partners to rural communities and the RPN initiative is an extension of that promise. The initiative provides a collaborative, all-of-government, approach to building local capacity and reducing the barriers to obtaining federal resources in twenty distressed and historically underserved counties across West Virginia. The RPN initiative is a testament to the Biden Administration’s commitment to creating new opportunities from the bottom up while building economically diverse and more resilient rural communities. I look forward to seeing the positive impact that it will have in our local communities and for our state.”

Today’s announcement is part of President Biden’s commitment to ensure all rural communities can benefit from federal resources, including historic funding provided by the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Vilsack and Ambassador Rice are in Wisconsin to meet with people, businesses and organizations who will benefit from RPN’s expansion. RPN is also launching in communities in Alaska, Nevada, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. Vilsack joined White House Coordinator Mitch Landrieu last week in North Carolina to announce the RPN communities there.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Ryan Thorn will join West Virginia community network members in two roundtable launch events. The launch events will provide an opportunity for the networks to discuss goals, priorities, partners, and next steps. The following roundtable launch events are scheduled for Wednesday, November 9:

  • West Virginia Pioneer Community Network Launch – 10:30 a.m. at the Waco Center at Glenville State University, 921 Mineral Road Glenville, WV 26351.
  • Southern West Virginia Community Network – 3 p.m. at Hawks Nest State Park Lodge at 18408 Midland Trail near, Ansted, WV 25812.

RPN helps establish community networks in rural areas where local leaders and residents collaborate with civic and business organizations, nonprofits, service providers, development agencies and others to create new opportunities and build on the diversity of a region’s population and perspectives.

Background: Rural Partners Network

The Rural Partners Network launched in April 2022 in 14 communities in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and Native American communities in Arizona.

Community networks within these states and those announced today will receive on-the-ground support from full-time federal staff members assigned to provide technical assistance tailored to the community’s unique needs and objectives. These community liaisons live and work in the rural communities they serve, allowing them to develop partnerships with local leaders to promote growth and prosperity for rural families and local communities.

These federal staff members will help rural communities navigate federal programs, build relationships and identify community-driven solutions, and develop successful applications for funding.

Additionally, RPN includes an-all -of government strategy supported by more than 20 federal agencies and commissions, working closely together with each other, rural communities, and existing programs and policies.  Communities also benefit from coordination through other federal efforts such as the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization and President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council, co-led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and USDA, advises the RPN program and escalates lessons learned through RPN for policy consideration. A team of Rural Desk Officers representing each participating federal agency or regional commission supports the RPN program and the selected community networks.

To deliver on the promise to make federal resources more readily available to underserved communities across rural America, the Biden-Harris Administration is seeking additional federal funding in order to expand the Rural Partners Network to additional places in fiscal year 2023.

Information about the Rural Partners Network is available online at Rural.gov.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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