U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that her bipartisan bill, the Rural Jobs and Investment Act, has passed the Senate as part of the final conferenced version of the Farm Bill. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for a final vote. Gillibrand’s legislation would expand access to much-needed resources and investment for rural entrepreneurs in Upstate New York to start and expand local businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of rural communities throughout New York State saw more businesses close than open from 2012 to 2016.

“We have incredibly talented entrepreneurs in rural communities all over our state, but too many of them have had enormous difficulty getting access to the capital they need to turn their ideas into new businesses. That’s why I introduced and fought to pass the Rural Jobs and Investment Act, which will make this process much easier for our rural entrepreneurs and go a long way toward rebuilding our Main Streets and bringing jobs back to our rural communities,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Now it’s up to my colleagues in the House to quickly pass this legislation and send it to the President so it can be signed into law. I will always fight for our rural workers, and I am very pleased that this good bill is now on the cusp of becoming law.”

Gillibrand’s legislation creates a new grant program to invest in local efforts to launch new companies and create new jobs in New York’s rural communities. The grant program would invest up to $2 million per award to community-driven initiatives to help improve the local economies of rural areas by doing the following:

Helping rural entrepreneurs and businesses connect to new markets;

Providing skills training to prepare workers for quality jobs and providing businesses with the workforce they need for success;

Investing in infrastructure upgrades required to support new business growth, including the deployment of high-speed internet service;

Turning more research and development at universities and other research institutions into new companies and business growth; and

Revitalizing downtowns with new innovation centers to serve as spaces for mixed-use housing, business development, training, and co-working.

This bipartisan legislation would also expand the use of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Facilities Program to invest in business incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers to provide additional resources for communities to support their entrepreneurs. The Community Facilities Program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to improve public services and public facilities in rural communities.