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NC Rural Center

Medicaid expansion, small business wins highlight successful year for rural advocacy 

The NC Rural Center’s Rural Counts Advocacy Team brings the voice of rural to Raleigh, and we are pleased with our success as we look back at the past year.

In Fall 2022, we updated the 2023 Rural Counts Advocacy Agenda and the North Carolina New Small Business Plan. These agendas offer innovative, fiscally sound, nonpartisan policy solutions and initiatives to address rural North Carolina’s most pressing economic development challenges and improve the quality of life for our state’s rural people and places. Moving forward, we will develop the Rural Counts Platform, an evergreen iteration of the Rural Counts Agenda that will be rooted in unbiased data and research and that will guide our policy positioning across multiple concerns.

The 2023-24 legislative long session began January 11. One of the issues we have focused on for the past several years is Medicaid expansion. This session, we stood among dozens of fellow partners to watch Medicaid Expansion become law after a tireless, decade-long push to close the health insurance coverage gap for 600,000 working adults. This historic legislation is perhaps one of the greatest economic development policy decisions made for rural North Carolina, as a disproportionate share of those who fall into this gap are working in rural communities. North Carolina became the 41st state to expand Medicaid, but we understand there will be challenges ahead as the program is put into place.  

We expand upon these challenges in the Rural Drivers – forces influencing modern rural life, including its people, its communities, and its businesses. The most recent state budget passed this fall notably reflected the themes of the Drivers by sending funding into rural communities to strengthen economic development.

Of note, after highlighting the role the Small Business Technology and Development Center has played as a steadfast mentor to small businesses, we were pleased to see the Center awarded additional recurring funding.

The Rural Center was also honored to be entrusted to administer the Shellfish Loan program – a lending program designed to provide shellfish farmers with affordable capital. The budget made this program even more accommodating for farmers harvesting crops along our coasts every day.       

Filings for small businesses reached historic numbers this year. We are proud to have carved out a space as the voice for small businesses from the mountains to the coasts, and especially the small businesses that provide the economic backbone of so many of our rural towns.

Next year, we will build off of these successes and advocate for rural North Carolina within the halls of the legislature for progress on multiple fronts. We understand that the challenges facing rural North Carolinians are multipronged and have viable solutions grounded in unbiased, nonpartisan research and data.