Former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack became current secretary under the Biden Administration this week, returning to the job he held for eight years under President Obama. Secretary Vilsack was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, sworn in virtually by Vice President Harris on Wednesday, and held his first press call with reporters Thursday morning.
The first issue Vilsack addressed was the priority of the Biden Administration to beat COVID-19, which is taking a higher toll on rural areas. He announced that USDA is investing $42.3 million to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. The investments include $24 million provided through the CARES Act and will benefit five million rural residents.
“Rural areas are seeing higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health insurance,” said Vilsack. “With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”
Vilsack said it is a different USDA that he will be leading, compared to the department he left in 2016, mainly due to COVID. He is still in Iowa and says most others in the department will continue to work remotely for now with only about 350 people at work in the building in Washington DC.USDA Secretary Vilsack press call 42:33