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Expansion of NH rural development program proposed in U.S. Senate


The Majestic Theatre and Café in Conway was one of 19 economic and infrastructure projects that shared $6.8 million in grants from the Northern Border Regional Commission in 2022. (Majestic Theatre Facebook/photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill that will strengthen a commission that supports job creation, community development and child and health care in the most economically vulnerable parts of northern New England and New York has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

The Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act of 2023 strengthens the NBRC, including adding Merrimack County to the list of counties in the state eligible to get NBRC money. Counties already eligible are Belknap, Carroll, Cheshire, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan.

NBRC is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2008 to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private sector job creation in the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. The bill to reauthorize the act was introduced by Shaheen, as well as Sen. Patrick Lahey, D-Vermont, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The proposed bill encourages business retention and expansion, invests in public infrastructure and promotes tourism across the region. To address unique challenges facing rural workforces, the act would boost investment in projects that expand rural access to child care, health care, and affordable housing needs, a news release from Shaheen, and other sponsors, said.

“The Northern Border Regional Commission is a key economic driver in northern New Hampshire,” Shaheen said.

In 2022, the NBRC awarded $6.8 million in economic and infrastructure grants to 19 projects in New Hampshire.

Specifically, the NBRC Reauthorization Act of 2023:

  • Reauthorizes NBRC for 10 years and increases the annual appropriation cap to $50 million (from $33 million) for the first five years, and $60 million for the following five years.
  • Adds Merrimack County, in New Hampshire, and Lincoln County, in Maine, to counties eligible for NBRC money.
  • Reauthorizes the State Capacity Building Grant Program, which provides additional money to regional economic and community development organizations that support business retention and expansion, infrastructure development and job creation.
  • Improves the region’s climate resilience by enabling NBRC to support projects that address the vulnerabilities of transportation and other public infrastructure assets to climate change.
  • Expands opportunities for community development by broadening the commission’s ability to fund projects that invest in child care and health care needs, including ones that attract, train and retain qualified health care or child care personnel. 
  • Directs the commission to emphasize projects to combat substance use disorders from opioid and methamphetamine use.
  • Provides NBRC the ability to support projects that facilitate construction or rehabilitation of housing to meet the needs of families and individuals in the region.

“I’m pleased to lead this effort in the Senate to reauthorize funding for another 10 years so this commission can continue to support rural businesses, job creation and infrastructure projects,” Shaheen said in the news release. “I’m also thrilled this bill extends eligibility to Merrimack County so it can access NBRC funding to promote local economic development. For years, I’ve prioritized funding to support the NBRC’s essential work to help revitalize our most economically vulnerable communities, and this legislation builds on those efforts. I look forward to the Senate acting swiftly on this bill so we can deliver important resources to rural communities, especially as we recover from the pandemic.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Angus King, I-Maine, Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.


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