Hickenlooper unveils sweeping plan for rural communities

Hickenlooper unveils sweeping plan for rural communities
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Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn Wright HickenlooperPoll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate MORE Friday unveiled a sweeping plan to invest billions in federal funds to buoy rural communities across the country as part of his 2020 presidential platform.

Hickenlooper said he would “be a champion for our rural communities” promoting small businesses, expanding access to broadband, education and health care and investing in renewable energy, while also fighting the mushrooming opioid crisis. 

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Hickenlooper touted his accomplishments in rural areas over two terms as governor of Colorado, including helping expand broadband internet access to all 64 of Colorado’s rural counties.

He also said that more than 80 percent of Colorado rural counties rank in the top half of employment growth of all such areas as a result of his initiatives.

“Our rural communities are at the forefront of some of our nation’s greatest challenges and opportunities. As the only candidate for President who has been a successful entrepreneur, Mayor and Governor, John Hickenlooper is uniquely qualified to not just talk about a stronger, more effective federal rural policy, but to make it happen,” he said in a Medium post. 

Hickenlooper focused much of his rural platform on tackling the escalating opioid crisis in the country, detailing a multipronged national strategy to curb opioid abuse.

He intends to create a grant program to train first responders on how to use Naloxone, the drug that helps reverse an overdose, enact a national prescription drug buyback and disposal program, ban advertising of opioids intended for pain relief and require Medicaid and other insurers to cover rehabilitation services. 

Hickenlooper also devoted much of his plan to economic development, vowing to implement a $50 billion tax credit for owners of micro-businesses, which have five or fewer full-time employees and draw in revenues of less than $10 million annually, and invest $10 billion to provide tax relief to small businesses for any new hires.

He also committed to investing $20 billion to expand broadband access across the country, including $10 billion dollars specifically for the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service fund to directly deploy broadband access.

Hickenlooper has struggled to gain traction since he launched his presidential bid in March, languishing in several national and statewide polls amid a crowded Democratic primary field.