February 02, 2005

Crapo Questions Potential Shift In Rural Funds

Seeks answers from Economic Development Administration

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo expressed concern today that the U.S. Economic Development Administration is straying from its original mission of supporting rural economic development projects. The EDA has been a major partner in several Idaho projects including the construction of the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho and partnering in a new industrial park in Gem County and Emmett.During a hearing by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Crapo and other committee members expressed concern to the head of the EDA, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Dr. David Sampson, about recent changes to funding formulas. As a result, rural entities may find it more difficult to qualify for EDA funding. Crapo is also concerned that some members of Congress will divert EDA funds into environmental cleanup projects traditionally handled through the Environmental Protection Agency.Crapo said, â??The evidence is mounting that assisting rural and underserved populations may be less of a focus for the Economic Development Administration than in the past. Given our present economic climate, rural economies need a full set of resources to aid commerce and business development. That assistance can come through EDA grants or from agencies like USDA Rural Development in infrastructure improvements. Rural economies must be able to compete with their urban partners for commerce.â??Crapo pointed to Congress providing a $1.4 million increase for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Center program, run by EDA. Despite the funding increases, Crapo noted EDA actually cut the budget for the Northwest region, which includes Idaho. â??I am concerned that this formula is detrimental to rural states where centers serve a large number of small firms rather than a small number of larger firms. I look forward to working with EDA to ensure a more equitable allocation,â?? Crapo told Sampson. The two are scheduled to meet in the near future to explore possible solutions. Crapo wrote last December in asking the EDA to justify changes in funding allocation formulas they fear create a bias against rural states. He earlier worked with the Trade Adjustment Assistance Center to win assistance for the Jaype Mill in Orofino. # # #