June 23, 2004

Wyden Amendment Protects Economic Development Projects in Oregon's Small Communities

Senator wins approval of legislation to help rural and distressed communities where jobs, economic growth are needed most

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today won approval of an amendment to keep Oregon's distressed and rural communities from losing economic development opportunities because of burdensome financial requirements recently imposed by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Earlier this year EDA informed communities that, beginning immediately, they would need to raise $22 in private funds for every $1 they requested in government funds - a significant increase in the "private sector leveraging goal" used to determine which projects are funded. Wyden's amendment, approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, would keep the EDA from blindsiding communities with such unreasonable requirements again and requires the EDA Secretary to ensure that rural and economically distressed areas are not adversely affected by any private sector leveraging goal. "The proposed EDA policy was a solution for a problem that didn't exist, and would have hurt Oregon's rural and distressed communities at a time when so many are working extremely hard to lift themselves up," said Wyden. "Today's action by the Committee will help assure that the EDA continues to act as a partner, not an obstacle, in restoring Oregon's rural economy." The Wyden amendment requires Congressional notification of any changes in private sector leveraging goals. It also includes important reporting requirements to allow Congress to monitor the use of ratio goals in dispensing Federal development funds. When EDA announced implementation of a 22:1 private sector leveraging goal earlier this year, Wyden wrote to David Sampson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, to express his concern. He outlined four EDA projects that had created or would create 800 jobs in Oregon, but that would not have met the new 22:1 ratio imposed by the agency. Sampson subsequently agreed to reduce the high ratio goal for private dollars. The Wyden amendment is now part of legislation reauthorizing the EDA, which is expected to be considered by the full Senate.