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Dahlkemper: Recovery package must include rural areas

| Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009

Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie, wants to make sure struggling rural areas in her district such as Armstrong County aren't forgotten in President Obama's multibillion dollar economic recovery package.

Dahlkemper's 3rd U.S. Congressional District includes the boroughs of Applewold, Atwood, Dayton, Rural Valley, South Bethlehem, West Kittanning and Worthington, Parker City and the townships of Boggs, Bradys Bend, Cowanshannock, East Franklin, Hovey, Madison, Mahoning, Perry, Pine, Rayburn, Redbank, Sugarcreek, Valley, Washington, Wayne and Kittanning, and the western voting precinct of South Buffalo Township.

In addition to parts of Armstrong County, the district includes parts of Butler, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties and all of Erie County.

The stimulus bill passed through the House this week and is in the Senate. Dahlkemper has joined other rural lawmakers in impressing upon the president and Senate and Congressional leaders the importance of investing in rural communities under the package.

"The belief is that not enough of the package is going to rural communities, it is going to be spent mostly on projects in urban areas," Dahlkemper said. "In these economic times, the areas most deeply affected are rural. Those are the first where businesses close up and go elsewhere, and where there are higher poverty and unemployment rates and difficulty for unemployed workers to find new jobs in their communities."

"We have an opportunity to provide necessary aid to these communities in the 3rd District of Pennsylvania, including prioritizing infrastructure projects which will create local jobs and stimulate the district's economy," she said.

Dahlkemper and the other lawmakers say there are a number of important existing programs that could benefit the stimulus package, including programs such as the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), Rural Utilities Service and other programs dealing with rural issues such as housing, infrastructure, transportation and health care.

REAP is for small rural schools that need funding to ensure that children receive an adequate education to help them get good-paying jobs in a tight job market.

Rural Utilities provides loan programs to support the construction, improvement and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in rural areas.

"Broadband enables businesses and students to compete on a global level by connecting them with the rest of the world," Dahlkemper said.

There is still deliberating to do on the floor of both chambers before the final version of the package is approved. Dahlkemper hopes the end product will have an impact on Armstrong County.

"It can mean jobs for the county," Dahlkemper said. "The whole premise of the package is about how we can create jobs, jobs of the future, and keep the jobs we have. That's where the money should be targeted."

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