USDA looking to distribute $2 billion for infrastructure projects in rural areas

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley announced last week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has more than $2 billion still available this year to invest in community facilities and infrastructure projects in rural areas. Baxley also released the names of 40 rural communities that are receiving a total of $50 million for projects that will benefit 631,000 rural residents in 17 states.
“Modern and accessible education, health care, public safety and municipal services are foundational to quality of life in any community,” Baxley said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue, the USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities to build the facilities in which these essential services are located, and to improve the infrastructure these services rely on to operate in rural America.”
USDA is making the investments and has additional funding available through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. Interested applicants should contact their USDA Rural Development state office.
The 40 projects Baxley announced last week are in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia. Sens. Richard Shelby and Doug Jones, along with Rep. Mike Rogers, worked together to receive funding for three projects in Calhoun County and the city of Florence.
The Alabama projects include:
• Calhoun County Fair Inc. – This Rural Development investment of$76,000 will be used to purchase land for the Calhoun County fair. Calhoun County currently rents this property. The land purchase will provide parking for county fair events. The fair has been in operation for more 30 years.
• Mid-Lauderdale Volunteer Fire Department Inc. – This Rural Development investment of $150,000 will be used to purchase new equipment for the Mid-Lauderdale Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) to better serve the community. The new extrication equipment, air packs and tanks are needed because some of the current equipment is reaching the end of its useful life and is costly to repair.
• Mid-Lauderdale Volunteer Fire Department Inc. – This Rural Development investment of $300,000 will be used to purchase a new fire truck and equipment for the Mid-Lauderdale (VFD) to better serve the community. The new fire truck and equipment are needed because some of the current equipment is reaching the end of its useful life and is costly to repair. The Mid-Lauderdale VFD has been in operation for more than 30 years, providing services to 20,519 residential customers.
More than 100 types of projects are eligible for funding under USDA’s Community Facilities program. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.
USDA will make additional funding announcements in coming weeks. Congress appropriated $2.8 billion for Community Facilities direct loans and grants in fiscal year 2019.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.
The USDA Rural Development program provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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