Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Eastern North Carolina today to announce $1.76 billion in stimulus funding to help an estimated 15,000 rural families buy homes across the country. The visit comes as economies of rural communities are plummeting -- and much faster than the rest of the country.
Biden is being joined by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, whose agency will spend nearly $10 billion from the stimulus bill on rural housing programs to help farmers and families in the nation's most sparsely populated areas.
Today, Biden and Vilsack are to visit a hospital and a fire station in two towns southeast of Raleigh.
North Carolina already has received more than $9.1 million to give out farm loans, to stock food banks and to buy nutritious foods for school lunches. Already, 68 farmers have been approved to receive loans worth $5.2 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The visit comes as U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton, who represents much of rural Eastern North Carolina, is holding hearings on the infrastructure needs of rural communities.
McIntyre said Tuesday that his Agriculture subcommittee will investigate the stimulus bill's effect in rural America.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Rural Policy Research Institute, rural areas lost 3.4 percent of their jobs in 2008 from the previous year, compared with a 2.8 percent drop for metropolitan areas, he said.
In Faison, Biden and Vilsack will visit Goshen Medical Clinic, where $635,000 from the stimulus bill will help the hospital hire two doctors, two nurses and three administrative workers.
Biden and Vilsack will then travel to Pikeville in Wayne County. The Pikeville Pleasant Grove volunteer fire department received a $50,000 grant and $1 million loan from the stimulus to build a larger fire station.
While in Pikeville, the pair will announce $1.76 billion in stimulus funding nationwide in loan financing for home purchases in rural areas. The administration says the money will help 15,000 families and either provide or protect an estimated 7,500 jobs.