By Cora Fox
Across rural America, small businesses are the heart of main street. From local coffee shops to the hardware store, these businesses employ local residents, provide important services to the community, and serve as anchors for their local economies. With the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 passed on Feb. 15, Congress has made an investment in rural small entrepreneurs nationwide.
The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program is a federal program that provides grants to organizations so they can provide lending and technical assistance to rural small businesses. This program fills a gap where otherwise rural entrepreneurs often struggle to access these crucial services and capital.
After the final 2018 farm bill was passed in December, the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program was given authority to operate, but was left without mandatory federal funding. Without mandatory funding, the future of this program hinged upon discretionary funding from Congressional appropriators, which requires renewal each fiscal year.
After months of dialogue between members of Congress, rural small business owners, and others, appropriators and appropriations committee staff in the U.S. House and Senate included $3 million in discretionary funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program in the final spending deal for this year. This is a win for rural America and the small business owners who invest in their communities every day.