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Axne speaks to constituents at town hall meeting in Clarinda

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Axne speaks to constituents at town hall meeting in Clarinda

During an appearance May 4 at the Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne commented on Congressional legislation that would provide benefits to residents in rural communities in Iowa and other sections of the country. 

Legislation in Congress designed to improve the lives of rural residents in Iowa and elsewhere in the nation was reviewed by U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne during a visit to Clarinda May 4.

Speaking at the Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum, Axne, who represents Iowa’s Third District, provided details about several bills that, she said, “I’ve either written or been the co-sponsor of that help our rural communities stay alive.”

Chief among the measures is the Rural Prosperity Act that creates a special office within the Executive Branch of the federal government to address identified issues.

“It’s time for a rural presence in the White House,” Axne said, “and this bill sets that up so the voices of states like Iowa are prominent. We need a greater voice.”

Even though non-urban areas have lost population in recent years, “that doesn’t mean people don’t want to live in our small towns,” Axne said. “They do. We have people from all over the country who want to live in Iowa. We have people here who want to live in Iowa, [including] young people who want to stay, but are finding it difficult to do so. Small towns are the places they are leaving. They’re going to the city or leaving the state entirely. We have to put a stop to that.”

The solution to this situation, she said, “is to bring opportunity to our rural communities, and it’s not because I just think [they] need a hand up. It’s because our rural communities are literally the backbone of this country.”

Axne said elected officials need to “understand that places like Clarinda and counties all over Iowa have not gotten a fair shake. So it’s time they do. If we don’t start realizing the value of places like Clarinda and rural parts of America that made this country, we’re not going to be as successful as we should be.”

Another bill she cited was the Invest to Protect Act, which enables police forces and sheriffs’ departments in smaller jurisdictions to apply for funding without having to compete directly with departments in large metropolitan areas.

The measure, Axne said, enables rural departments to have a “fair shot” at acquiring money to cover costs for recruitment, hiring, training, equipment and operations support, as well as for staff retention bonuses.

The Volunteer First Responder Act seeks to give firefighters in rural areas the ability to reside in the towns where their departments are located.

“I want them to be able to stay in their communities,” Axne said. “We can’t live without them, so they need to have access to housing. This bill helps them get that.”

Allowing rural residents to remain in their homes is the goal of the Rural Housing Preservation Act.

“We want to take existing housing, upgrade it and make sure we can keep people in those communities,”Axne said, adding that it is crucial for individuals and families to have “affordable housing options within the price range of folks who are looking to buy their first home.”

The act also provides assistance to people who have been displaced by an emergency situation, such as what occurred during flooding three years ago in Mills County along the Missouri River.

Regarding medical care, Axne said she supports a bill to expand “telehealth” in rural areas so that consultation and some diagnostic and treatment services can be offered over the Internet “right here in our communities.”

She also said “parity for reimbursement” should be provided to rural hospitals that are “struggling to stay afloat.”

On the issue of child care, Axne said funding should be available to provide direct support to facilities “so they can afford to pay their teachers, hire folks and retain them, and improve their operations.”

She favors a bill currently being considered in Congress that would “cap out-of-pocket costs for families at 7 percent of their income” for child care services.

In general, she said, “what we need to do is invest to make sure we have safe and sound child care centers, and that our families can support them.”

In a federal government funding bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives were appropriations requested by Axne for two child care-related projects in southwest Iowa.

The Stanton Child Resource Center received $1 million to begin an expansion of the facility, and $725,336 was secured to expand programming and make additions at the Ringgold Child Care Center in Mount Ayr.

To boost an agricultural economy that is the mainstay of most rural communities, the Cattle Price Transparency Act would enable producers to “get market prices that they deserve, prices that accurately reflect the work they put into raising their cattle.”

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley is also working for passage of the act, Axne said, “so we might be able to make this happen.”

Another boost to the agricultural sector can be realized through “expanded renewable fuels capabilities,” Axne said. “We need to make sure we get more activity on the ground” and remove a “lack of certainty in the market.”

Along with commenting on the measures she hopes will be enacted, Axne highlighted some of the benefits Iowa obtained from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed last year.

The state received $3.4 billion to repair and improve 403 miles of highways found to be in poor condition, and received $432 million for repair and revitalization of more than 4,000 bridges rated as being structurally deficient.

To upgrade water lines and replace lead pipes, $638 million was received. “Seventy percent of our kids have lead in their systems,” Axne said. “Some of that comes from our really old pipes that are dangerous and need to be replaced.”

The bill also provided about $100 million to expand affordable broadband Internet service in Iowa.

“I’ve been working on rural broadband for a long time,” Axne said. “The legislation I helped craft is in this bill.”

She said the effort she expends in moving measures forward in Congress reflects a “tenacious Iowa attitude that so many of us have grown up with. It really works well for you out in Washington.”

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