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National News Roundup – March 19, 2024

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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Some States Aiding Grocers in Rural Areas

Legislation aims to ensure food availability for residents.

Rural areas across the country are facing challenges with hunger and access to nutrition. A 2015 USDA national survey showed that 44 counties in America had no grocery store at all, and 40 of those were rural.

In Kansas, one in five rural grocery stores closed between 2008 and 2018, according to the Rural Grocery Initiative at Kansas State University. No new store has opened in half of the 105 communities that lost grocers over that time.

“The store is the lifeblood of the community,” said Corliss Hassler a regular customer and community investor in the Post 60 Market, a cooperative grocery store in Emerson, Nebraska, population 891. “We have to keep our store, we have to keep our schools, we have to keep our churches — and it’s all a struggle right now.”

Preserving grocery stores has been a perennial challenge for rural communities. Small, often declining populations make it tough to turn a profit in an industry known for its razor-thin margins. Increased competition from online retailers, the onslaught of chains such as Dollar General stores and an aging lineup of independent grocers have only made things tougher.

In Nebraska, proposed state legislation would provide grants and loans for small grocers. In neighboring Kansas and Iowa, lawmakers have introduced bills with similar goals, following the lead of states — including Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and Oklahoma — that have enacted laws setting up special funds to boost rural grocery stores.

Nebraska state Senator Teresa Ibach said rural grocery stores, whether they are for-profit, cooperatives, or nonprofits, deserve the state’s support. “I think the trade-off is, if you’re willing to invest in small local communities, we are willing to invest in you.”

(Source: Stateline)

Cross-Generational Solution to Housing in Maine

Pilot pairs up younger and older adults for more affordable option.

The economics of living in Maine are like that of many states in the nation. Older adults struggle to keep their homes, while younger ones struggle to find a place they can afford.

The State of Maine has launched a pilot program to match older “empty nesters” with young people looking for an affordable “nest.” MaineHousing, a quasi-governmental agency, says the test program is aimed at expanding the availability of affordable housing options while simultaneously reducing elderly Mainers’ living expenses.

The program would match often younger residents of Maine – who are searching for an increasingly rare affordable place to live – with older homeowners who have space to spare and a need for more income. Nesterly, a Boston-based real estate company, will administer the program under a small grant.

“Loneliness is a big deal in the older population in Maine; and, also, allowing people to stay in their homes as they age into their older years,” said Dan Brennan, director of MaineHousing. “These things are very important and very serious.”

Young people are expected to benefit, too. “For renters, home-share increases affordable housing options,” O’Neil said. “It can help address our affordable housing shortage and soaring rent costs by making use of extra space within existing housing stock that would otherwise be unused.”

Paul Armstrong, a 64-year-old disabled resident of Palermo, Maine, is excited by the concept, saying: “I live alone with my two dogs… I think having company would be great.” He added: “My closest neighbors are a quarter mile in each direction. [If] I took a bad fall or something. I don’t have a phone… I’d be in trouble.”

(Sources: Maine Wire, News Center Maine, WGME-TV)

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