USDA grant awarded to Mildred Warner

September 15, 2011

Professor Mildred Warner, CRP, has been awarded a nearly $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fund her project, Great Recession, Fiscal Stress and Demographic Transformation: Implications for Rural Service Delivery and Multi-Generational Planning. The project addresses the challenges local governments face as they attempt to meet the dual challenges of economic recession and demographic transformation. David Brown, professor in development sociology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and George Homsy, Ph.D. student in History of Architecture and Urban Development, are collaborators on the project.

The recent recession spawned serious challenges for state and local government finances. But, according to Warner, the fiscal crisis is not the only serious trial currently facing local governments: they also are seeing significant demographic transformation including rising elderly populations and shrinking numbers of children. Many rural governments in particular are discovering that the grey gold of the recently retired loses some of its economic luster as aging residents need more support services including para-transit, home health care, and Meals On Wheels. At the same time, rural areas are seeing the out-migration of young people as they become economically active adults, and the need to invest more in children and young families given the rise in young immigrant families in rural areas. The challenge is to redesign services to meet the needs at both ends of the age spectrum says Warner.

Warner and her team will chronicle the demographic transformations occurring in rural communities, explore new service delivery models that address the joint issues of fiscal stress and demographic restructuring, and assess how rural communities are meeting the need for multi-generational planning. Ultimately, the project will support an outreach program for rural community leaders to enhance their understanding of these issues and support their efforts to promote multi-generational planning and service delivery. Although the project maintains a rural focus, it will look across the rural-urban spectrum.

The project will be funded for three years and include national surveys of planners and local government managers, as well as interviews and focus groups. Project partners include the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and both the Rural and Small Town Planning and Women and Planning divisions of the American Planning Association (APA). The project will also retain an advisory committee that involves childcare and gerontology experts. In addition to Homsy, CRP students assisting Warner on this project are Rebecca Baran-Rees (M.R.P. 12) and Matt Styer (M.R.P. 12).

This story was originally written by Gregory Kelly (M.R.P. 12) for the Cornell Planner.

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