Rural Americans will see benefits from the recent stimulus bill.
The bill includes broadband funding and support for low-income families as well as telehealth funding and assistance for farmers and ranchers, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said in a conference call with reporters Dec. 21.
Wyden said the the broadband section of the stimulus package includes $7 billion to help fund broadband internet access. This would also help provide $50 a month to low-income families to help pay for internet services, which Wyden wrote into the package.
“We’ve got a lot of kids trying to learn with less than stellar connectivity,” Wyden said.
Wyden said the bill includes a provision, which he wrote with Sen. Chuck Grassley, to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers. Principally, $13 billion in funding will be provided for agriculture assistance, and expenses paid with the paycheck protection program loans will be tax-deductible.
“The farmers will be able to buy food and feed and electricity and help ranchers who suffered losses during the pandemic,” Wyden said. “... The ag provisions, I think, are very important.”
Wyden said the stimulus bill also includes money focused on telehealth. He also said it’s important that people can see a doctor whether it be in person or not.
“I think we all know you can’t have rural life without rural health care, so it is a quality of life issue, particularly with folks who are elderly,” Wyden said.
The stimulus bill passed on Dec. 20 includes a $600 stimulus check and $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits. However, Wyden said what he worked on previously was a package that was twice this size.
Wyden said in the spring, he wrote the law that provided four months of extra unemployment insurance, an extra $600 each week, for four months.
“In Oregon, you might make $350, $375 on unemployment...” Wyden said. “Get the extra $300, that’s $675. Maybe you get the stimulus check. It’s pretty hard for a family of four to get by on that.”