Related Rural Blog Posts

  • Giving Doctors and Hospitals the Tools They Need to Provide Better Care

    Ed. note: This blog is cross-posted from HHS

    Last week, I visited the Metropolitan Community College where I toured the Virtual Hospital and Patient Simulation Lab. This facility is a great example of how Community Colleges are training the skilled workforce that is so critical to creating and running successful Health IT systems.

    When doctors and hospitals use Health IT, it reduces errors, cuts paperwork, and lowers costs. Over the past 3 years, the Obama Administration has made it a top priority to make it easier for doctors and hospitals to adopt Health IT.

    We’re providing incentive payments to hospitals and eligible providers to adopt electronic health records and use them to improve patient care. We created 62 Health IT Regional Extension Centers around the country to help health care providers take advantage of those incentives. Already, more than 120,000 primary care providers, including over 70% of rural primary care providers in small practices, have registered to use those incentives.

    At community colleges we’re training the skilled workforce that is essential to sustaining this investment. More than 9,000 community college students have already completed Health IT training through federally supported workforce programs, with thousands more enrolled.

    And last week, we announced that these investments are already making a difference. New data shows that nearly 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 doctors have received $3.1 billion in incentive payments for meaningful use of Health IT, particularly certified Electronic Health Records (EHR).  Meaningful use requires doctors to give their patients a summary of their office visit. Like a receipt, this clearly explains at a glance the care the patient received and the next steps for both the patient and provider.

  • We Can’t Wait: Bringing New Investments to Rural Communities by Leveraging Existing Programs

    Since the formation of the White House Rural Council in June 2011, we have had a unique opportunity to provide recommendations on how to grow the economy and create jobs in rural America.    

    The feedback we’re providing to the White House, based on our travels throughout the countryside, has helped us find creative ways to move the country forward without relying on Congress to act because rural Americans can’t wait.

    Today's announcements are the result of the Rural Council’s ability to cut across large federal agencies to deliver results for rural families and businesses.  Along with colleagues at the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Labor, we announced three new ways to leverage existing programs and funding to drive economic growth in rural communities.

    These announcements include:

    • Promoting A Bioeconomy:  President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today directing the federal government to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years, which will create jobs and drive innovation where biobased products are grown and manufactured.  The biobased products sector marries the two most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing.  
    • Rural Jobs Accelerator: We are launching a national competition, providing about $15 million for projects that promote innovation-fueled regional job creation.  The competition will combine funding from USDA, the Economic Development Administration, Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission. USDA will utilize our Rural Community Development Initiative program to support this effort and provide technical assistance and training funds to qualified intermediary organizations to develop their capacity to undertake housing, community facilities, and community and economic development projects in rural areas.  
    • Rural Health IT Workforce:  The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics.  

    Click here to learn more about the efforts of the White House Rural Council.

  • “Life is a Highway: Rural Tourism and the Prospects of Economic Opportunity”

    The President recently unveiled an ambitious plan to make the United States the #1 tourist destination in the world. Each year, tens of millions of people from around the world visit the U.S. In 2010, the travel and tourism industry generated over $134 billion dollars for the American economy and tourism supported 7.5 million jobs.   

    The President wants to build upon this success, and recently announced steps to ease the international arrival and admissions process for tourists to visit the United States. Frequent travelers who pass an extensive background check will be able to scan their passports and fingerprints and skip long lines at immigration at more airports through the Global Entry Program. As a result of the President’s action, the U.S. will expand the number of countries where visitors can get pre-cleared by Homeland Security so they don’t need a tourist visa. And we’re going to speed up visa processing for countries with growing middle classes that can afford to visit America – countries like China and Brazil. 

    I want to take a moment to highlight what these actions mean for Rural America. The iconic images of Rural America’s assets – our farms and ranches, historic sites and small towns, and national parks, forests and seashores – are powerful motivators for international travelers who choose to spend their vacation time and money in America. Visitors in search of a memorable American experience encounter a wealth of attractive tourism opportunities in our country’s rural landscapes and communities.

  • A Rural Council Initiative – Creating Jobs and Building a Forest Restoration Economy

    Since the Rural Council was established last June, the Council has been a tremendous forum for discussing how to increase the focus on conservation work and create jobs in rural America. Here at the White House, we have been proud to work with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the recent report: “Increasing the Pace of Restoration and Job Creation on our National Forests” (USDA Restoration Report). The commitments we made in this report exemplify the progress we can achieve through the work of the Rural Council.

    America’s forests provide myriad goods and services for the American public: clean drinking water, habitat for wildlife and fish, timber, and jobs that generate opportunities to create rural wealth. We believe that increasing the pace of forest restoration is important to the economic prosperity of rural America. Accelerating the restoration of our National Forests will also help combat the threats of disease, pests, wildfires and climate change to our forests.     

    Our forests support rural economies through recreation, tourism, and the production of wood products and bioenergy. The forest restoration report calls for a 20 percent increase of treated forest acres over the next three years, which would increase forest products sold by the National Forests from 2.4 billion board feet in 2011 to 3 billion board feet no later than 2014. This increase will accomplish critical restoration objectives, support jobs and stimulate a more vibrant forest industry that will provide workers with the skills to undertake other restoration projects. Active management of the nation’s forests, and the forest products industry that supports sustainable actions, are vital to meeting these objectives. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program is an excellent example of how USDA works successfully in partnership with states, communities, tribes and private land owners and it is exciting to see opportunities ahead with the announcement of ten additional forest and watershed restoration projects for a total of twenty (CFLR projects in 2012).

    Accelerating restoration also will encourage an expanded market for wood products, including biomass utilization. The Forest Service is currently working with USDA on 12 Wood-to-Energy projects that will showcase how forest restoration and job creation go hand in hand. 

    The forest restoration strategy also advances the priorities of President Obama’s Americas Great Outdoors initiative by encouraging greater use and access to our public lands. We know there is a strong link between outdoor recreation and economic health. Currently, recreation activities on National Forest System lands alone contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs in local communities. Just last month, President Obama directed his Administration to craft a new national tourism strategy focused on creating jobs – and a key piece will be encouraging foreign tourists to visit national parks and national forests, which will benefit rural economies.   

    The Rural Council provides an excellent forum for advancing ideas to benefit rural America. The Council will support this effort to deliver results from the forest restoration report and as work progresses in building a forest restoration economy.

    Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems at the Council on Environmental Quality.

    Doug McKalip is Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

  • Secretary Announces Refinancing Help for Rural USDA Home Loan Borrowers in Select States

    Ed. note: This blog is cross-posted from the USDA Blog.

    Today, rural homeowners in 19 states across the nation are getting some much-needed and long-awaited help to cope with declining home values and a sluggish housing market.

    Secretary Vilsack announced today a pilot program to help rural borrowers with loans made or guaranteed by USDA refinance their mortgages to reduce their monthly payments. This initiative is part of the president’s on- going efforts to help middle class families, create jobs, and strengthen the economy. Since the Obama Administration took office three years ago, Secretary Vilsack has worked closely with the White House to ensure that rural Americans continue to enjoy the many benefits of homeownership.

    This is part of President Obama’s plan to help responsible homeowners.  In his recent State of the Union address, the President laid out a Blueprint for an America Built to Last, calling for action to help responsible borrowers and support a housing market recovery. While the government cannot fix the housing market on its own, the President believes that responsible homeowners should not have to sit and wait for the market to hit bottom to get relief when there are measures at hand that can make a meaningful difference, including allowing these homeowners to save thousands of dollars by refinancing at today’s low interest rates.

    Streamlined Refinancing for Rural America: USDA, which supports mortgage financing for thousands of rural families a year, is taking steps to further streamline its USDA-to-USDA refinancing program. This program is designed to provide those who currently have loans insured by the Department of Agriculture with a low-cost, streamlined process for refinancing into today’s low rates.

  • Twitter Office Hours Marathon: State of the Union

    Chris Lu Twitter Office Hours

    Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, enjoys himself during his special State of the Union session of White House Office Hours. (by Joanna Zhang)

    This week, senior White House officials have been answering your questions about President Obama’s State of the Union Address through a series of Office Hours on Twitter. Miss the speech?  Visit to watch and learn more and then check out the full line up of engagement events below. 

     You can ask a question using the hashtag #WHChat and don’t forget to follow along with the conversation all day at @WHLive

     Missed a session? Click on the chat below to check out the full Q&A on Storify.