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Revitalizing small towns, rural areas

Iowa’s small towns and rural communities are facing a number of challenges with shrinking population, fewer jobs, an aging housing stock, closing schools and lack of access to basic health care services.  These factors have made it difficult to keep young people in rural communities or attract new business and workers. It’s essential that we work together this year to revitalize small towns and rural areas. 

In Iowa, 23.4 percent of households are housing cost-burdened, which means they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. We need to make sure all Iowans have access to safe, affordable housing for their families. We also need to give Iowans the opportunity to fix up and rehab abandoned houses.

In order for rural Iowa to keep up with the rest of the state and the country, we must expand access to high speed internet to every community such as schools, homes, hospitals and businesses.

During the last decade, more than 100 health care centers, clinics and pharmacies have closed their doors, many in rural areas. Also, population decline has made it difficult for rural communities to recruit enough EMT’s to even provide basic emergency ambulance services. We need to make sure we are training and recruiting the best and brightest to Iowa to help rural communities.

Four bills were introduced this week to revitalize rural Iowa including:

• Creating more affordable housing – Expanding workforce housing tax credit and directing a minimum of 20 percent to rural areas and small towns for new, affordable housing.

• Fixing up old housing – $2 million grant fund to partner with small towns to fix up and rehab abandoned buildings to develop more housing options.

• Expanding broadband – Make high speed internet access available to more Iowans by expanding the grant program to connect more Iowans.

• Increase emergency services – Increase the tax credit for EMT, police, and fire volunteers in rural communities; create grant funding to help rural communities with infrastructure, volunteer training and equipment for emergency personnel.

To find out more about these bills go to https://iowahouse.org/ruraliowa.

Iowa House finds compromise on solar energy

This week, the Iowa House passed a solar bill that could unleash solar growth in the state and create long-term certainty for Iowa solar customers.

The compromise bill grandfathers existing private solar customers and maintains net metering. Senate File 583 also calls for the Iowa Utilities Board to study the value of private solar in the state when Iowa is receiving 5 percent of its energy from solar or by 2027. Currently, less than 1 percent of Iowa’s energy comes from private solar.

Last session, the bill stalled due to concerns over job losses and disruption in the solar energy market.  During the interim, stakeholder groups met with MidAmerican Energy and came to a compromise that supports all forms of renewable energy, while fairly valuing customer-owned solar energy and keeping rates affordable.

SF 583 passed the House 98-0 and currently waits Senate consideration.

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