TMCnews Featured Article

October 30, 2009

Congressman Introduces Job-Creating Telework Bill Aimed at Rural Communities

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor

Rural areas and small towns are bearing much of the brunt of the downturn. Statistics have shown higher jobless rates in these smaller dispersed communities than in their bigger brethren.
For when a factory, mill, mine, distribution center, store, office or contact center closes there is little alternative work nearby, and in commuting distance even by rural standards.
Individuals and their families are faced with the difficult, costly, disruptive and risky choice of moving to the major cities where they may be more jobs and a lot more people number-wise seeking them, and much greater housing and other expenses.
While some recent stats show that in some rural areas the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in have dropped, observers have pointed out that this reflects people having given up in what they see as hopeless searches that cost money to conduct.
“They're getting tired of looking and not getting anywhere,” said Susan Scheufele, program manager at the Josephine County Food Bank in Grants Pass, where more people receive help as unemployment exceeds 14 percent told The Oregonian in a story published Oct.19 . “As far as I know, there has not been a substantial increase in jobs in Josephine County.”
The story reported that Josephine County, which is located in the southern part of the state, saw its seasonally adjusted unemployment drop from 14.9 percent in August to 14.2 percent in September. That is above the state figure of 11.5 percent in September and the national jobless rate of 9.8 percent. Meanwhile the Oregon Employment Department also recently released figuring showed the state's labor force contracted between April and September as job seekers gave up. The state lost 10,300 jobs last month, seasonally adjusted, following a loss of 7,400 in August. 
Congressman Tom Perriello (D-Va.) who represents the large rural/small city state 5th Congressional District hopes to change that, by bringing quality jobs to rural residents nationwide via telework.
He introduced a bill, H.R. 3627, the Rural and Small Town Telework Tax Credit Act of 2009 Oct.28 to help spur growth of technology jobs in rural areas and small towns.  The bill would provide a tax credit for the cost of teleworking equipment and expenses for businesses that hire employees in rural and small town America.

“We’ve watched as thousands of high-tech jobs have gone overseas; if a company can hire a phone operator in India, why can’t they hire an American worker in Martinsville?” said Perriello.“We may not be able to get some of the big factories back that have gone overseas but this is one way to use new technologies to help create jobs for Americans in our rural areas and small towns.” 
Under the bill, a $1,000 tax credit would be applied per teleworking employee up to a maximum of $50,000. This tax credit would only apply to teleworking employees in rural and small town areas. This would be done by limiting the tax credit to qualified teleworking employees in three areas: metropolitan areas with a population less than 200,000, “micropolitan areas” (population between 10,000 and 50,000), and rural areas outside of either metropolitan or micropolitan areas.

The Telework Coalition, a telework education and advocacy organization, is supporting the legislation.
“We have long championed the idea that telework is a key component of rural economic development by bringing jobs to people instead of people having to travel long distances to get to jobs,” said Chuck Wilsker (News - Alert), president and CEO of the Telework Coalition. “With the implementation of the National Broadband Plan assuring that more Americans will have access to broadband networks, Rep. Perriello’s timing couldn’t have been better.”

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri