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January/February 2000

Inside This Issue:

 

Center Announces Year 2000 Grant Projects
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has earmarked more than $375,000 in grant monies for this year’s round of grant projects.

The Center’s Board of Directors awarded the grants to eight faculty from the State System of Higher Education universities and four faculty from the Pennsylvania State University’s main and branch campuses in 1999. January 3 was the official kick-off date for the majority of projects.

Representative Sheila Miller, chairman of the Center’s Board of Directors, says that this year’s grant projects will again offer the General Assembly, local governments and community organizations information that will support future policy and program recommendations.

"The Center’s Board of Directors, independent reviewers and Center staff, who reviewed the grant proposals, were impressed with the quality and scope of this year’s project proposals," Miller says. "As always, the Board selected those projects that will build on or complement the Center’s extensive database of information on rural issues and opportunities."

Year 2000 Grant Projects

Grantees who receive funding under the Center’s Traditional Grant Program may receive a maximum funding of $50,000 for their projects per year. The grant projects may be renewed for up to three years if further research is necessary but each grantee must meet the current year grant requirements and continue to submit yearly competitive proposals.

This year, the Center has a new Mini-Grant Program, which is for projects that focus on basic data collection and analysis, time-sensitive issues, and the preparation of reference materials. These projects are to be completed in nine months and require less than $10,000 in Center support.

This year’s Traditional Grant and Mini-Grant projects are summarized below.

Traditional Grant Program

Co-dependence of Pennsylvania’s Agribusiness, Farms, and Farmland

This study is led by Timothy Kelsey, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania State University, and will examine the economic relationship among agribusiness sustainability, farm profitability, and farmland preservation.

Retrospective of Economic Development Incentives

Headed by Constantinos Christofides, Ph.D., of East Stroudsburg University, this project will study Pennsylvania’s economic development programs and their success over the past 15 years. This project will focus on economic development programs that work best in rural areas.

Welfare Reform: The Experience of Rural Pennsylvania

C. Nielson Brasher, Ph.D., from Shippensburg University, will lead this study to examine how welfare reform has affected rural Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. The goal of this project is to provide policymakers with information about the social and economic effects of welfare reform on former and current recipients.

Strategies for Increasing Consumption of Pennsylvania Food Products

Hank Laskey, Ph.D., of Bloomsburg University heads this marketing study of fruits and vegetables in Pennsylvania. This study’s ultimate goal is to find ways of improving marketing methods for small- to medium-sized producers to help increase producer revenue.

A Multifocal Study of Geriatric Assessment

C. Virginia Palmer, Ph.D., of Millersville University leads this study of geriatric assessment (GA). The study will identify current GA literature, identify any GA programs in rural Pennsylvania, assess healthcare providers’ expertise in GA, and survey qualified individuals to see if they would participate in a GA program.

Fayette ROCCs (Establishing a Rural Telecounty)

This is the second year of funding for the Fayette ROCCs grant project, led by Joseph Segilia of the Pennsylvania State University-Fayette. In its first year, the project was successful in establishing 14 locations to access computers and computer training. In this second year of funding, the center will continue to establish additional community computing locations, and set up a mobile computer station that will travel throughout Fayette County.

Retrospective of Economic Development Incentives

Headed by Martin Shields, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania State University, this study will examine the success of Pennsylvania’s incentive programs that are designed to generate and retain employment in the Commonwealth. The analysis will use a case study approach to determine the effectiveness of these economic tools and will provide a detailed assessment of how specific programs function.

Cybercitizens of the Commonwealth: How Rural and Urban Pennsylvanians Access and Use the Internet

This project, led by James Tomlinson, Ph.D., of Bloomsburg University, will survey rural and urban citizens to see how they use the Internet. The results of the survey will be compiled into a data-base for future use and policy recommendations.

Postsecondary Persistence and Attainment of Students from Rural Pennsylvania

Wenfan Yan, Ph.D., of Indiana University is leading this project to compare the post-secondary education rates of rural and urban students. The goal of the project is to obtain both qualitative and quantitative information on factors that influence postsecondary attendance and graduation. The results will offer insight into how rural students can maximize their success at the postsecondary level.

Mini-Grant Program

Assessing the Potential for Increasing Intermunicipal Cooperation Among Pennsylvania’s Rural Municipalities

Headed by Beverly Cigler, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg, this study will examine rural local governments’ service delivery methods and finances, and will look at intermunicipal cooperation to assess further opportunities for such cooperation. The end result of the project will be a written guide for decision-makers and information providers.

Project Insight

Cynthia Schloss, Ph.D., of Bloomsburg University, leads this project to analyze the mental health system in rural Pennsylvania. The research will focus on providers, clients, and cost reimbursement to produce an analysis of mental health service programs in rural Pennsylvania.

A Manual for Small Downtowns

Led by Martin Shields, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania State University, this project will create a manual to provide small Pennsylvania communities with a menu of low-cost tools and strategies to help revitalize their downtowns. The manual will be a "how to" guide for small towns with limited financial resources and organizational structure.

Rural Bankruptcy Rates

Martha Troxell, Ph.D., of Indiana University, is leading this study to collect and categorize bankruptcy information filed in Pennsylvania from 1980 to 1999. This study will use bankruptcy claims, unemployment rates, per capita personal income, and population to compare rural and urban bankruptcy rates in Pennsylvania.

2001 program begins

As this year’s grantees begin their projects, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania is also getting ready to begin the grant programs for 2001. The Center’s Board of Directors is currently identifying additional research topics that address relevant issues impacting Pennsylvania’s 3.7 million rural residents. After topics have been identified, the Center will issue the Request for Proposals (RFP) in February.

While the Center’s grant programs are only available to faculty at SSHE and Penn State universities, the Center encourages cooperation and collaboration between these universities and other public or private organizations on grant projects.

For more information about the Center's 2000/2001 Grant Programs or to receive a copy of the Request for Proposals, call the Center at (717) 787-9555 or visit our website at www.ruralpa.org.

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Chairman’s Message
For many farmers, municipalities and individuals, this New Year has brought with it some good news.

In December 1999, the General Assembly passed and Governor Tom Ridge signed the Drought, Orchard and Nursery Indemnification and Flood Relief Act, or Act 57 of 1999, to provide assistance and relief to those who were affected by the drought and other emergencies proclaimed last year.

1999 was a trying time for many of the state’s farmers and other individuals who suffered great losses because of these emergencies. This emergency relief package, which was designed to supplement some federal relief packages that were also instituted last year, will provide some needed assistance to many of the farmers and individuals who have been hit the hardest. For more information on the types of assistance available and contacts for the programs, turn to page 4.

Another major piece of legislation that was enacted in December 1999 that will have an impact over the next five-plus years is Growing Greener. This law, officially called the Environmental Stewardship Act, promises to help preserve farmland, clean up abandoned coal mines and provide more recreational opportunities for residents throughout the state. Turn to page 6 for more specific information about Growing Greener.

As highlighted on page 1, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has announced its latest round of grant projects. The Center received some exceptional grant proposals from faculty at the State System of Higher Education and Penn State University for its 2000 grant programs.

This year, the Center is also pleased to introduce its Mini-Grant Program, which is for projects that focus on basic data collection, time-sensitive issues, and the preparation of reference materials. We look forward to sharing the results of the Traditional Grant and Mini-Grant projects with you sometime next year.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania will continue its work in this New Year to provide the Pennsylvania General Assembly and state and local rural advocates with information on issues and programs that have the potential to affect each of Pennsylvania’s 3.7 million residents.

Have a happy New Year.

Representative Sheila Miller

Chairman

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State OKs Drought Relief Package
Farmers, municipalities and individuals who suffered damages from last year’s drought and flood emergencies may now be eligible for more than $65 million in emergency relief funds with the passage of the Drought, Orchard and Nursery Indemnification and Flood Relief Act, or Act 57 of 1999. The act, which was signed into law on December 13, 1999, will provide funds to drought stricken farmers, assistance to purchase crop insurance, funds to assist farmers affected by the Plum Pox Virus and assistance to municipalities and individuals affected by flooding during 1999.

Following is a brief overview of Act 57 and information on how to contact the appropriate agencies or departments for assistance.

Closely Linked to Federal Program

The drought relief portion of Act 57 is closely linked to the federal Crop Disaster Program, which is being administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

To qualify for drought relief under the federal program, producers must have lost 35 percent or more of their crops, which are defined by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Producers who have gross incomes of $2.5 million or more do not qualify for assistance. Coverage is available for insured crops, uninsured crops and non-insurable crops. The maximum federal award is $80,000.

Under Act 57, producers may receive grants at a rate of up to 75 percent of the maximum $80,000 federal award, so state grant awards will not exceed $60,000. If demand exceeds the $60 million appropriation from Act 57, the state will pro-rate the grants to make sure that funds are distributed equitably.

Producers should contact their county office of USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which is serving as the point of contact for the state program and the federal program. Telephone numbers for the local offices are listed in the blue pages of local telephone directories under "U.S. Government." A list of offices is also available at USDA’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov\edso\pa\pa.htm. Program information, applications and confidentiality waivers are available at the state Department of Agriculture’s website at www.pda.state.pa.us or by calling (717) 787-4737.

Crop Insurance

Farmers who receive assistance under the federal Crop Disaster Program but who did not insure their 1999 crops are required to purchase crop insurance for 2000 and 2001. Act 57 includes $5.6 million to help farmers meet the federal insurance requirement. Grants are available for up to 10 percent of the crop insurance premiums and related fees.

Plum Pox Virus

Act 57 also provides a total of $2 million in grant awards to orchards that have been affected by the Plum Pox Virus. Grant awards will be set at $1,000 or less per acre. The state Department of Agriculture is accepting grant applications. For more information about the eradication assistance program, visit the state Department of Agriculture’s website at www.pda.state.pa.us or call (717) 787-4737.

Flood Relief

Municipalities in the counties where flood emergencies were declared in 1999 are eligible for the federally funded Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This program provides up to 75 percent of the costs associated with projects intended to prevent future property losses.

Act 57 provides $10 million in matching funds required by the federal program for property losses. For more information about the federal program, contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region III Office, Liberty Square Bldg., 2nd Floor, 105 S. 7th St., Philadelphia, PA 19106, telephone (215) 931-5608.

Act 57 also set aside $5 million for the Supplemental Individual Assistance Program, which will be administered by the state Department of Public Welfare.

To be eligible for the state program, a household must have first qualified for the federal Individual and Family Assistance Program and have received the maximum allowable funding of $13,600 from that program. The state Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Income Maintenance will send anyone eligible for the state funding an application. For more information, contact the Office of Income Maintenance at (800) 692-7462.

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Did you Know ...

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Crawford County Alliance Offers "One-Stop" Technical Training
By now, many of us may be missing the sounds of summer - pool water splashing, hamburgers sizzling, keyboards tapping, computer mice clicking. Keyboards tapping and computer mice clicking? These may not be the sounds of summer in your backyard, but they were in Crawford County this past summer for more than 100 children who attended a computer camp at the Crawford County Regional Alliance’s Link-to-Learn Training Center.

The Crawford County Regional Alliance, a non-profit organization founded in 1997, sponsored the camp to meet one of its goals of furthering technological learning among children in the region.

Through additional training programs, the alliance also hopes to en-courage new business and job development in the northwest region of the state.

Something for everyone

To meet its goals, the Crawford County Regional Alliance has developed the Crawford County Industrial Park and the William J. Bainbridge Technology Center into a "one-stop regional training facility," according to Maryann Martin, chief executive officer of the alliance.

"Our facility offers a fully functional, interactive, user-friendly environment with all of the necessary equipment available for meeting even the most demanding training situation," Martin says. For example, the alliance has equipped the Technology Center with video-conferencing equipment, video recording equipment, computers, printers, digital cameras, and scanners.

The alliance was also responsible for getting a local Internet service provider, which was the only provider in the county at the time, to move its headquarters to the Bainbridge Technology Center. "Getting that provider to move its headquarters to Bainbridge was the first step in building a comprehensive multimedia communications and training center," Martin says. Since then, two other Internet service providers and other companies have moved into the center.

In the beginning

In 1997, the Crawford County Regional Alliance was one of five organizations to compete for a Center for Rural Pennsylvania "info-village" grant. The goal of the grant was to support community and economic development through projects that would aggregate the demand and use of technology and telecommunications for the total benefit of a community. While the Center ultimately funded another project in Fayette County, the Crawford County Regional Alliance went on to obtain funding from other sources and to start the Link-to-Learn Training Center, which was the first of 14 Link-to-Learn test centers in the state. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania believes the work accomplished by the Crawford County Regional Alliance is a good example of what the "info-village" concept was all about.

Link-to-Learn Center

The Link-to-Learn Training Center opened its doors in August 1998 and serves as a training site for many businesses located in the area. It is also being used by area school districts to train teachers on using computers in the classroom.

During the summer of 1999, the Link-to-Learn Training Center hosted two, four-day children’s computer camps. With help from corporate sponsors, the alliance offered 116 children the opportunity to learn more about computers at a low price. Activities for the week were Internet-based, and included instruction on surfing the net, downloading information, and using a digital camera.

In the next few years, the alliance plans to expand its current training center and to become a site for interactive meetings among businesses anywhere in the world.

For more information about the Crawford County Regional Alliance, contact Maryann Martin, chief executive officer, at (814) 337-8200.

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Getting To Know Our Small Town Officials
Pennsylvania’s rich mosaic of local governments is unique to most other states in our nation. Local governments, which number about 2,600 strong, are considered as the government closest to the people.

Among Pennsylvania’s nearly 20,600 elected officials, nearly 40 percent serve municipalities with 2,500 residents or less. In these small, predominantly rural communities, officials are responsible for the policies and programs that have a direct impact on their residents.

But who are these individuals who govern Pennsylvania’s small towns? Since there was little data or information compiled on these individuals, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania conducted a statewide survey to get answers to that question and others.

Surveying small town officials

In the spring of 1999, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania mailed 3,500 questionnaires to borough and township of the second class elected officials from municipalities with 2,500 residents or less. The survey asked questions about gender, age, years of service, education/municipal training, households, income, employment, community involvement, campaigning, important municipal issues, cooperation among officials, future plans and more. The response rate was 32.2 percent.

A sample of the survey results follows.

A look at PAs municipal officials

* The majority of Pennsylvania’s small town officials are male. More than 85 percent of the survey respondents were male and less than 15 percent were female.

* The average age of a small town official is 56 years old.

* More than 17 percent of the respondents have a bachelor’s degree. Within this group, 50 percent have a graduate degree.

* About 18 percent of small town officials have an associate or technical/trade school degree.

* Nearly 57 percent of the small town officials have a high school degree or some college education but no degree.

* Only 8 percent of the respondents indicted that they did not have a high school diploma.

* Less than 50 percent of respondents said they participated in municipal training courses within the past two years. Among those who did participate, less than 40 percent have taken more than two courses.

* About two-thirds of the respondents are either self-employed or employed full-time.

* About 30 percent of the respondents are retirees.

* In addition to their municipal responsibilities, nearly 80 percent of respondents participate in volunteer activities. Most participate in churches and religious organizations, closely followed by social and service organizations, and cultural activities. Also, about 20 percent volunteer at their local fire company.

* Among those officials who volunteer, most spend less than 20 hours per month on the activity.

* The most common reason to seek public office was to improve the community, followed closely by the desire to be active in the community.

* More than 30 percent of respondents did not expect to seek office again.

* Nearly 73 percent of respondents rated the level of cooperation among elected officials in their municipality as good to very good, and 16 percent said it was fair. Only 11 percent rated it as poor to very poor.

The bottom line

The major findings of the survey were that elected small town officials share many common demographic and socio-economic characteristics; small town officials are committed to serving their community; and a leadership transition may be underway in small towns.

Want more info?

For a more detailed fact sheet on the Survey of Pennsylvania’s Small Town Municipal Officials, please call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555.

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Growing Greener in PA
The new environmental spending law, "Growing Greener," which was enacted in December 1999, will set aside nearly $646 million over the next five years to preserve farmland, clean up abandoned coal mines and improve parks.

More specifically, the initiative includes $100 million for farmland preservation; $154 million for infrastructure at state parks, grants to counties, municipalities, and other local parks authorities, and other environmental efforts; $239 million for the state Department of Environmental Protection to clean up mines, plug oil and gas wells, and award grants for local water and wastewater projects; and $152 million for PENNVEST's grant program for drinking water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure projects.

For more information, contact the state Department of Environmental Protection's Growing Greener Grants Center at (877) PAGREEN or visit its website at www.dep.state.pa.us/growgreen.

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Just the Facts: Feds Plan to Change Definitions
The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued guidelines to change its definition of non-metropolitan and metropolitan areas. The definition changes may have an impact on the resources that small communities receive from the federal government since some federal agencies allocate resources, such as money and technical support, according to the OMB definitions.

The current OMB definition of non-metropolitan is based on what is primarily considered metropolitan. This means that a county is considered metropolitan if its has a large urbanized core. The surrounding counties may also be considered metropolitan, depending on the transportation commuting patterns in the area. Counties not classified as metropolitan are considered non-metropolitan. At last count, Pennsylvania had 33 metropolitan and 34 non-metropolitan counties.

The metropolitan and non-metropolitan counts may change, however, because the OMB would like to eliminate the current metro/non-metro definitions and replace them with a broader range of categories. The idea behind the changes is that the new definitions will more accurately represent the nation’s settlement patterns. The OMB plans to continue using counties as the base, but will incorporate a four-tier classification system instead of the current system. The first tier of the system includes "Megapolitan Areas," which are counties that have an urbanized core of 1 million or more residents and surrounding counties that are closely linked by transportation commuting patterns.

The second tier is "Macropolitan Areas," which are counties that have an urbanized core of 50,000 to 999,999 residents, including surrounding counties that are closely linked through commuting patterns.

Third is "Micropolitan Areas," which are counties having an urban core of 10,000 to 49,999, again including surrounding counties that are closely linked through commuting patterns.

The final tier is "Outside Core-Based Statistical Areas, " which by default may be considered non-metropolitan.

If the OMB’s proposed definitions are applied to Pennsylvania using the 1990 Census results, the Commonwealth would have 9 Megapolitan counties; 18 Macropolitan counties; 13 Micropolitan counties; and 27 counties that are Outside Core-Based Statistical Areas.

The comment period on the proposed changes ended in December 1999, so the definitions will most likely be used after the Census 2000 is tabulated.

For more information on the OMB definitions, see the October 20, 1999 Federal Register (Vol. 64, No. 202), page 56628.

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