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Smith, Sewell Introduce Bipartisan RURAL Act

April 15, 2019
Press Release
H.R. 2147 would ensure access to rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (NE-03) and Terri Sewell (AL-07) have introduced the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act, bipartisan legislation which would help preserve jobs and encourage infrastructure development by ensuring tax-exempt electric cooperative organizations’ continued access to government grants and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief.

“Nebraska has a long tradition of relying on public and cooperative power generation to affordably meet the needs of families, farmers, ranchers, and small businesses,” Rep. Adrian Smith said. “While continuing to ensure rural electric co-ops are largely funded by their membership as a condition of their tax-exempt status, we should also ensure funds received from grants or for pole usage do not affect their tax status.  Just as rural power generation and transmission were vital to rural economic growth in the 20th century, access to both power and broadband will drive our rural economies in the 21st.”

“Our rural communities depend on reliable infrastructure, access to broadband, and secure energy sources for their local economies to thrive,” Rep. Terri Sewell said. “Alabama’s rural electric co-ops provide essential broadband services in rural areas where high-speed internet is limited but essential to that areas’ economic growth. We must do more to provide high-speed internet – and the opportunities and resources that it brings – to the 22.4 million Americans living in rural parts of our country without quality internet access. The RURAL Act would ensure that these co-ops can retain their tax-exempt status when applying for grants to expand rural broadband or disaster assistance and provide these co-ops with the ability to secure the grants needed to continue to grow their renewable energy, economic development and energy efficiency initiatives.”

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

A Senate companion measure was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tina Smith (D-MN).