Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Senate passed the final FY 2020 funding bill that includes their bipartisan Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act to preserve jobs and encourage infrastructure development by expanding tax-exempt cooperative organizations’ access to government grants and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief. This legislation provides certainty for co-ops looking to utilize government resources to deliver critical services to their members, such as broader access to high-speed internet or repairs to the electrical grid. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk for signature.
“I’m pleased that this bipartisan legislation will now head to the president’s desk to be signed into law because in today’s technology-dependent world, we must do more to bring high-speed internet and stronger grid infrastructure to the rural areas of our country. Tax-exempt rural co-ops provide these important services to parts of the country where access to reliable electricity and high-speed internet is the most limited, and they rely heavily on grants to perform these services. Without this legislation, many co-ops may miss out on grant income or disaster assistance, hurting our efforts to promote economic development and job creation in these rural areas,” said Portman.
“We should take any action we can to help us get more Minnesotans and Americans in rural areas connected,” said Smith. “So when I heard from several Minnesota cooperatives at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, I wanted to reverse that. I introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure co-ops can retain their tax exemptions when they receive grants to expand rural broadband or recover from a disaster. With this measure set to become law, we can make sure rural broadband keeps expanding in Minnesota and nationwide.”
NOTE: The RURAL Act will amend the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to ensure tax-exempt cooperative organizations do not lose their tax-exempt status when they make use of certain government grants, contributions, and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief.