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Federal Funding In Rural America A 'Mixed Bag' Under New Administration

Charles Michael Ray

Rural states like South Dakota rely heavily on federal funding.  Tribes also require federal dollars to maintain programs, roads, schools and even small business development.

With so many budgets and businesses hinging on the input of federal dollars.   There’s cautious optimism, and some uncertainty, among tribal and federal officials about the incoming Trump administration…

A group of representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture are touring the Pine Ridge Reservation as part of a Promise Zone initiative granted a few years ago.

That group is tasked with helping business developers on the reservation navigate the federal framework of economic development on federal trust land.

Sam Rikkers is with the USDA rural development office in Washington DC.

He says the incoming administration appears pro-business and should keep investing in rural areas.

“I’ve heard promising news from the next administration that it believes in these types of investments in that infrastructure, in business opportunity, in some of those basic services—whether it’s broadband or roads or things that get rural economies going that they need,” Rikkers says.

Others are cautiously optimistic.

Ivan Sorbel is the executive director of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

He says with every presidential transition comes uncertainty about funding in the future.

“The political turn from a Democratic president to a Republican president it might tighten up federal funding, but then again it might loosen up some jobs as well in the private industry," Sorbel says. "Taking a look at tax credits and things of that nature, that could be beneficial to our area as well.”

Sorbel says federal funding is crucial for continued business growth on Pine Ridge.  About forty percent of the state of South Dakota’s budget comes from federal funds.