Persistent Poverty in America: Addressing Chronic Disinvestment in Colonias, the Southern Black Belt, and U.S. Territories

When Partners for Rural Transformation (PRT) partner staff, Kiyadh Burt from Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union (Hope) was invited to testify before the House Committee on Financial Services, he delivered truth, realities, and potential solutions. Burt generated so much curiosity and energy around addressing persistent poverty in rural areas that the committee asked for comments in response to the congressional testimonies heard that morning. The Partners for Rural Transformation drafted a letter outlining the definition and reality of persistent poverty. Persistent poverty is a measure used to describe counties and parishes where the poverty rate has eclipsed 20% for at least three decades in a row. A closer examination of the population of residents living in the counties, however, paints a picture that is steadfastly rural and marred by racial inequity. Of the 395 persistent poverty counties, eight out of ten are nonmetro and the majority (60%) of people living in persistent poverty counties are people of color.

PRT commends the committee for recognizing these shortcomings and seeking to address them. We support each of their recommendations in full including a reauthorized and streamlined CDBG program with an emphasis on housing production, a targeted set aside within the HUD CDBG program for colonia investment, more federal dollars to assist manufactured housing communities, and a significant infusion of funding for competitive HUD grants.


To further expand on these efforts and see the successful deployment of existing resources, PRT recommends the following:

  • The creation of a down payment assistance program for rural persistent poverty counties
  • The adoption of the FHFA’s recently proposed colonia census tract definition across all federal agencies
  • Adoption of the 10-20-30 rule; a targeted set aside of 10% federal spending in persistent poverty counties across all federal agencies and programs
  • The creation of a congressional persistent poverty caucus


See PRT’s full comment letter here to read more on PRT’s recommendations to eliminate persistent poverty.

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