Council passes resolution of support for small town investment act; Act would allow small communities to receive grant money

Published 8:19 am Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Austin City Council voted unanimously for a resolution in support of the Small Town and Regional Vitality Act of 2018 during its regular meeting on Monday.

Tim Walz

Introduced in Congress this week by Congressman Tim Walz (D-Minnesota), the act is “designed to create a new investment initiative by sharing federal revenues directly with local governments to address the major challenges facing their specific communities while tying those decisions to their region’s long-term strategic framework.”

The legislation is the result of conversations Walz and his office had with rural communities and local leaders along their Southern Minnesota Way of Life Tour. Walz and his team traveled to all 21 counties of Minnesota’s First Congressional District to hear constituents’ ideas for how to enrich their communities and prepare them to thrive for decades to come.

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Issues the act hopes to address include:

• Affordable, quality childcare and early education options;

• Fixing or constructing public infrastructure;

• Building housing for the local workforce;

• Deploying high speed broadband and internet connections;

• Protecting and enhancing health care services;

• Training skilled workers for jobs of today and tomorrow; and

• Creating more community amenities like art and music, sports, bike trails and other outdoor recreational activities.

The resolution was passed at Walz’s request as a means of demonstrating broad support for the act.

“It was good that council approved the Walz resolution,” said City Administrator Craig Clark who, along with Mayor Tom Stiehm, will be assisting Walz with a press conference on the Small Town and Regional Vitality Act of 2018 on Wednesday morning in St. Paul.

Under the act, USDA Rural Development will administer revenue sharing grants to local and regional governments representing rural towns and rural areas. Towns and local government units representing a population of 30,000 or less will be eligible to apply for grant money, with 85 percent of matching funds coming from the federal level, 10 percent from state government and 5 percent from local government.

Local governments may submit specific funding plans to designated state economic or community development agencies for synchronization with their respective region’s long-term strategic framework under the act. The regional USDA Rural Development Office will be responsible for approval.

Project funds will not offset local tax increment financing or provide direct financial subsidies to private, for-profit businesses.

Walz is retiring from Congress next year and is a 2018 candidate for governor. Clark said that Walz will work until his last day in office, but is working with other members of Congress to “carry the torch” for the act as he moves on from Congress.