This week I had the opportunity to work with Tammy Slater, CEO of Goodwill of Greater Nebraska (Grand Island, NE), as she testified before a Congressional subcommittee.
Slater joined one other service provider and two researchers at a hearing on the geography of poverty. They provided committee members and the public with insights into the common themes and varying solutions to addressing poverty in urban, suburban and rural areas of the country. Slater’s testimony provided a window on the world of programs and services in rural communities, using her experience with the 55 counties in her Goodwill’s 54,000-square-mile territory as an example.
“The challenges of poverty—stable housing, adequate nutrition, effective health care, reliable transportation, quality child care, appropriate education and job training—are common to both rural and urban areas,” Slater said. “How we respond to challenges in rural areas may differ due to our sparse population, limited local resources and scarce employment opportunities.”
Slater recommended the following solutions to effectively meet and overcome these and other challenges:
- Strengthen collaborations between community organizations, nonprofits, businesses and government agencies. When productive partnerships work, they form a network of services and opportunities for people in rural communities who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
- Invest in programs that help someone get—and keep—a good job. Organizations like Goodwill® equip people with career guidance, education, training and workplace skills that help someone stay with a job and advance in their career. Making productive education and skill-building opportunities count toward meeting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirements—to ensure that people with barriers to work have the ability to become and stay independent.
- Put effort into economic development to create more jobs in rural communities. Many states rely on one or two industries, which makes rural communities especially vulnerable in a downturn.