Portman, Smith Introduce Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act

Legislation Would Expand Access to Rural Broadband Grants and FEMA Disaster Relief, Promote Economic Development & Job Creation

April 4, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act to preserve jobs and encourage infrastructure development by expanding tax-exempt cooperative organizations’ access to government grants and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief. This legislation provides certainty for co-ops looking to utilize government resources to provide critical services to their members, such as broader access to high-speed internet or repairs to the electrical grid. U.S. Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Adrian Smith (R-NE) will introduce a companion measure in the House of Representatives.

“In today’s technology-dependent world, we must do more to bring high-speed internet and stronger grid infrastructure to the rural areas of our country. Tax-exempt rural co-ops provide these important services to parts of the country where access to reliable electricity and high-speed internet is the most limited, and they rely heavily on grants to perform these services. Without this legislation, many co-ops may miss out on grant income or disaster assistance, hurting our efforts to promote economic development and job creation in these rural areas,” said Portman.

“We should take any action we can to help us get more Minnesotans and Americans in rural areas connected,” said Smith. “So when I heard from several Minnesota cooperatives at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, I wanted to reverse that. This bipartisan legislation would ensure that co-ops can retain their tax exemptions in efforts to expand rural broadband or in providing relief from, or preparation for, a disaster or emergency. I’m encouraged that this bill has bipartisan support as well in the House, and I’ll be pushing for this legislation to become law so we can make sure rural broadband keeps expanding.”

NOTE: The RURAL Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to ensure tax-exempt cooperative organizations’ do not lose their tax-exempt status when they use of certain government grants, contributions, and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief.