INDIANAPOLIS – Giving rural communities a voice. A local consulting firm thought it was time to look at how the pandemic has impacted rural areas across the country and right here in the Hoosier state.

“Who’s actually asking rural America?” asked Andrea Hutchins, the COO of Thomas P. Miller and Associates.

They found there are important needs that are going unaddressed, and that’s why they hope to find solutions.

“Most of our partners are in smaller, regional and rural communities and when the pandemic hit, we noticed that there was a disproportionate amount of resources available to those individuals,” said Hutchins.

The ‘Prosperity Through Equity’ report was created by Thomas P. Miller and Associates. It found access and a lack of resources are a huge problem.

While many of these communities are receiving money, there are issues with how to spend the funds. The survey found the most important need in rural America is affordable, quality housing.

Access to broadband internet is also towards the top of the list.

When it comes to childcare, it ranked as the fourth highest priority but ranked first when it comes to not having a plan in place to fix the problem.

“For those of us who live in a city, you may have five daycares within a two-mile radius. For those who live in a rural area, you may not have any daycares in a two-mile radius. You may be driving ten miles away from your office to drop your child off at daycare,” said Hutchins, “Access to living-wage jobs was another major issue in rural America that was identified. Also was, which was kind of surprising to me, transportation.”

67 percent of respondents reported a lack of financial resources in their communities. Those surveyed were also asked if their area had a plan in place for addressing the needs.

Hutchins added, “No, they don’t have plans in place to be able to address these issues, which is a huge problem when we think about how vulnerable we are post-pandemic and if there should be some other national emergency or something like that. Those communities are worse off than we were in 2020.”

 Thomas P. Miller and associates believes this survey just scratches the surface.

They plan to make this an annual initiative in hopes of encouraging governments to think differently – when providing resources to rural areas.

So – how do we fix this?

Thomas P. Miller wants to hear from you.  Through January 31, the company is holding a solutions challenge, where they’ll pick a winner with the most compelling solution. That person will win $5,000 for their ideas which will in return, help rural communities with economic recovery.

Click here for more information.