MFU Comments on COVID Relief BILL
March 11, 2021
HELENA, Mont. — Rural communities are big beneficiaries from the COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed on Wednesday.
The $1.9 trillion bill has some well-known provisions, such as $1,400 stimulus checks, but also includes billions of dollars in relief for rural and farming communities across the country.
Walter Schweitzer, president of the Montana Farmers Union, said farmers and rural towns didn’t seem to get much relief from the first two relief bills.
“Our rural communities are suffering and no one seemed to care,” Schweitzer asserted. “And this first $3 trillion, it seemed to miss Montana.”
Opponents of the measure say it’s too big and could overheat the economy, potentially driving up inflation and hurting consumers.
Matt Hildreth, executive director of RuralOrganizing.org, said there’s a long list of benefits for rural America, such as $100 million in rental assistance for USDA-subsidized rural properties, $10 billion to expand broadband and a 15% increase in SNAP food assistance benefits through September.
Rural households are more likely to participate in that program.
“Then also, it’s providing $4 billion to support the local food chain and making sure that food and farmworkers have access to PPE, and it provides financial support for farmers,” Hildreth outlined.
Schweitzer noted there’s a mental-health crisis among Montana farmers, who are suffering not only from the impacts of the pandemic but from an alarming number of bankruptcies.
He pointed out many of these folks are third- and fourth-generation farmers and the weight of the family farm is on their shoulders.
“They’re going to be the generation who lost the farm,” Schweitzer warned. “And so any little amount that can give the family farm here in Montana some relief is probably not only going to save a family farm, but it’s going to save a farmer’s life.”
The bill also provides broader benefits, like $350 billion to state and local governments and extended unemployment relief through September, reauthorizing a $300 boost in weekly benefits.