Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $331 million in 85 projects that will improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural areas in 39 states and American Samoa.
Community infrastructure investments are a key piece of USDA's mission to support America's rural communities, and these investments build on the $13.9 billion USDA has invested over the course of the Obama Administration to support 5,825 water and waste infrastructure projects that currently benefit 19.5 million rural residents.
"Strategic investments like these into community infrastructure provide a path to rural economic growth," said Vilsack. "Water and wastewater upgrades protect the health and safety of those who live and work in rural areas, and are especially critical given today's aging infrastructure in areas that have not fully benefited from rural America's economic rebound. Modernizing water and wastewater systems improves the quality of life and can help attract jobs to rural communities."
USDA is providing $264 million in loans and $67 million in grants through Rural Development's Water & Environmental Programs. These programs provide assistance and financing to develop drinking water and waste disposal systems for communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
For example, in South Carolina, the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission is receiving a $34.8 million USDA loan and a $1.2 million USDA grant to construct a water treatment plant. Currently, the commission purchases water from three separate water systems, whose infrastructure is aging.
The Summit Springs Regional Waste District in Henry County, Ind., is receiving a $1.4 million loan and a $4.2 million grant for a sewer rehabilitation project to address raw sewage leakages and to comply with environmental regulations.
The city of Truth or Consequences in Sierra County, N.M., has been selected for a $715,000 loan and a $4.5 million grant for the second phase of wastewater treatment plant improvements to comply with environmental regulations. Sierra County is included in USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative to address persistent poverty across America.
Of the 85 projects announced, 21 are located in StrikeForce areas, and one project—an Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant in Jackson, Ky.—is also in an area targeted for assistance by the Obama Administration's Promise Zone initiative. These 21 projects are receiving more than $63 million in loans and $30 million in grants, which is 28% of today's total investment and nearly 45% of the grant funding.
Funding for each project announced is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement. The funding builds on USDA's historic investments in rural America over the past seven years. Since 2009, USDA has worked to strengthen and support rural communities and American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80% of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested $13.9 billion for 5,825 water and waste infrastructure projects, benefiting 19.5 million rural residents; invested nearly $13 billion to start or expand nearly 112,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 9,200 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; and helped bring high-speed internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. USDA also has invested $38.2 billion in 1,057 electric projects that have financed more than 198,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving 4.6 million rural residents.
For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results. To read more about USDA's investments in rural America and its successful turnaround, visit USDA's entry on https://medium.com, Rural America Is Back in Business.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture