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Rural Indiana is not immune to the disruptions of COVID-19, and it is impacting our families, farms, and local businesses. Our communities are key to the state’s economic success, and through the Rural Road to Recovery initiative, universities and state agencies are joining forces to offer solutions and aid rural areas in our comeback.

From rental assistance to dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on Indiana’s agriculture and food systems, and implementing the Broadband Ready Community Program, this initiative works to help keep people in their homes, food on our tables and internet access in remote areas.

For Hoosiers impacted financially by COVID-19, the state made $30 million available for mortgage payment assistance, $40 million to the Low Income Housing Emergency Assistance program, and created a $25 million program to provide rental assistance to most Indiana counties, including our area. To learn more about housing assistance, visit IndianaHousingNow.org.

This initiative also helps with our food supply chain, which was impacted by the pandemic. More than 94,000 people work in Indiana agriculture, contributing a combined $31 billion to the state’s economy. These are vital jobs and dollars Indiana can’t afford to lose. It’s key for farmers, agribusinesses owners, and the Indiana Farm Bureau to collaborate with the state and universities during Indiana’s recovery. Already, agribusinesses and producers are receiving assistance while applying for small-businesses loans and other financial resources. Indiana Grown is connecting farmers with different food banks and pantries to sell and distribute their Hoosier-made products, and assisting restaurants with social distancing guidelines to adjust their businesses reopening to dining customers.

With more Hoosiers and students working and learning from home, staying connected through the internet is becoming more important than ever. The Broadband Ready Community Program supports broadband development in our state. Through the Rural Road to Recovery, Indiana will improve broadband accessibility. Expanding affordable broadband coverage is key to education and training, e-commerce, agriculture, and health care, with each aspect being able to take place safely from home.

This is just the start of rural Indiana’s recovery, and innovative solutions will continue to be found as state leaders hold summer study committee hearings and gather for the next legislative session.

So much media coverage focuses on how the country’s largest cities will bounce back from economic damages, but rural Indiana and agriculture cannot be forgotten. With much of our state consisting of small towns, rural Indiana must be a priority if we are going to gain economic momentum and remain an agricultural leader. To learn more about the Rural Road to Recovery initiative, visit in.gov/isda.