“I don’t think these people understand poor,” my mother would argue. “They have no understanding of what it’s like to grow your own food, eat meat on only Sundays, use an outhouse and hike two miles every day to the road, so you can take a bus to school”.
In the 1950s, my mother’s people hailed from a hollar in Eastern Tennessee. It was a place so poor that the above quote was a fact of her childhood. Stuck in a shack with more siblings than I can list – many of which died in childhood, this was her reality. Her reality got worse when the sole provider of her household, my grandfather, became sick.
My grandfather was a coal miner. Due to complications from black lung, he suffered a stroke and was bedridden with no use of one side of his body. It took years of fighting for my grandmother to obtain his disability checks and move her family to town. This town of Garret, Kentucky.
Garrett is now underwater.
An unincorporated town in Floyd County Kentucky, Garret has a medium income of 21,168. It is an area that is not far removed from the conditions of my mother’s childhood. These people had next to nothing, and lost everything.
Overall the situation with flood water infrastructure in the United States is bad. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, they rated America’s Stormwater protections a D on their infrastructure report card. It is a ridiculous grade for vital infrastructure.
The largest area of need is an overall funding gap of 434 billion over the next ten years in all infrastructure related to drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. Though the American Society of Civil Engineers produces a good product with their reports, their stormwater section is based on urban needs. The organization subtly recognizes the lack of rural data.
The lack of data in rural areas like Garret, Kentucky is nothing new. It is possible to find numerous citations from various organizations on the lack of data. This lack of data can be attributed to a lack of commitment to rural development, with no central structure for rural development, and responsibility spread between sixteen different government agencies.
On top of the lack of data, what little data we have shows that our rural area is underfunded compared to infrastructure elsewhere in other categories. For example, during the Obama administration, rural areas had trouble receiving stimulus funds.
According to a report from High Country News, more than half of communities will also struggle to obtain funds from recent legislation. These communities are all rural with lower per capita income. This has given rural areas a significant disadvantage in comparison to their urban peers.
The Reform Party understands that we must do better for rural towns like Garret Kentucky. Not only does the United States have to reorganize our method of managing rural infrastructure, the United States also has to fund all of its needs by fully funding all our infrastructure. We will help all of our communities by creating a structured ten year plan that audits, addresses and funds urban and rural development based on present and future needs.