New anti-poverty initiative for Scioto County

A new federal anti-poverty initiative will be expanded to 11 counties in Ohio, including Scioto County.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown told the Daily Times Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative identifies regional and local challenges and aims to solve them by connecting local partners with federal resources to combat chronic poverty.

According to USDA, more than one-third of all rural Americans and one-in-four rural children live in poverty.

“The small towns and rural communities in Scioto County showcase our state’s diverse strengths and opportunities for growth,” Brown said. “But they face unique challenges – like aging infrastructure – and are often isolated from important resources that build wealth and encourage economic success. The StrikeForce initiative takes a tailored approach to address this vacuum by engaging with local partners who know the community and deploying targeted federal resources to solve regional and county-specific problems.”

Currently, 85 percent of the nation’s “persistent poverty” counties are in rural America. The USDA defines a county as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more of individuals were living in poverty over the last 30 years. Children raised in families earning twice the poverty threshold are nearly three times as likely as other children to have poor health, more likely to complete two fewer years of school, and more likely to earn half as much money over the course of their adult lives.

“Growing the economy by investing in rural communities, farmers, makers and innovators, and increasing opportunities for families are keys to our Nation’s future,” United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “StrikeForce has proven to be an effective, collaborative process that builds partnerships and enables USDA to bring economic opportunity directly to rural Americans where they live and helps rural communities leverage their assets.”

Brown also applauded an announcement Friday by the White House that Vilsack will lead a coordinated effort to combat heroin and opioid abuse.

Brown said USDA launched StrikeForce in 2010 to increase opportunity for rural Americans by partnering with businesses, foundations, universities, faith-based organizations and other community groups to provide technical assistance in order to help rural communities solve problems and exploit regional strengths. In 2015 alone, Brown said those partnerships have helped USDA support more than 188,000 projects, driving more than $23.8 billion in investments in high-poverty areas nationwide.

By Frank Lewis

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Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.