By Erik Wasson - 08/16/11 04:01 AM EDT
President Obama is set to announce several new initiatives meant to spark job creation in rural America without forcing the administration to get the backing of Congress.
Obama will announce the package Tuesday at a “White House Rural Economic Forum” in Peosta, Iowa.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills said Monday that the elements of the package, which does not have new costs associated with it, are not insignificant.
“I will tell you there is nothing small bore about this effort,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack said Obama has had an historic focus on rural areas, and Mills said that the SBA portion of the initiative was a doubling of an effort that already created an estimated 250,000 jobs since 2009. The USDA later clarified that USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Programs in total since 2009 have provided $6.2 billion in financing to small rural businesses, creating 250,000 jobs since 2009.
Neither would put an exact estimate on the number of jobs that could be created by Tuesday’s initiatives, but Vilsack said that more announcements will be forthcoming including on biofuels.
SBA is shifting the distribution of funds from its Small Business Investment Company’s Impact Investment Fund toward rural communities. Under the new plan $350 million of the $1 billion fund will now go to rural small businesses.
Vilsack said that even though only 16 percent of Americans live in rural communities, 90 percent of persistent poverty is found there.
Obama will announce that the Agriculture Department and SBA will hold a series of conferences to attract venture capital to rural areas, and that USDA field offices will now have access to Labor Department job training resources.
The president has also ordered that more hospitals should be made eligible to receive loans to hire new doctors, and the administration will be making loans available for rural hospitals to invest in information technology upgrades.
In addition, Obama is pushing Congress to enact legislation he has said will create jobs. This includes extending a payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance, passing free trade agreements and setting up an infrastructure bank.
Senate Democrats have said they will spend August devising a jobs package, while House Republicans are developing their own approach that focuses on tax reform and rolling back regulations.