Grants, loans benefit 168 small towns across the country
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making investments to improve water and waste infrastructure for 168 small towns across the country, including Puerto Rico. The investment, totaling $283 million, is made through USDA Rural Development's Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, which provides assistance and financing to develop drinking water and waste disposal systems for communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
"Strong infrastructure is critical to keeping America's communities of all sizes thriving, and USDA is proud to partner with the National Rural Water Assn. to help improve the livelihood of our smallest towns by providing access to reliable water and wastewater systems," Vilsack said. "Projects like these are critical to the economy, health and future of rural America, and today, 19 million residents now have improved water and wastewater services in their communities thanks to investments USDA has made since 2009."
USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Brandon McBride made the announcement on Vilsack's behalf at the National Rural Water Assn.'s WaterPro conference.
The city of Monticello, Ill., is receiving a $14.3 million USDA loan to construct a wastewater treatment plant to benefit the city's 5,500 residents. The funding will help the city expand its sewage capacity and comply with environmental regulations.
In Mississippi, the Mt. Olive Water Assn., a nonprofit organization serving approximately 368 customers, is receiving a $297,000 loan and a $238,000 grant for a water systems improvement project. The funding will provide a water storage tank, fire hydrants and a generator for this small system.
Mt. Olive is one of the first applicants to use Rural Development's new online application system, RD Apply. In this new process, applications can be submitted by anyone, anywhere in the country, any time of day. That means even the most remote rural communities can submit an application as long as they have access to the internet. USDA's Water and Environmental Programs division launched RD Apply at the National Rural Water Assn.'s WaterPro conference in Oklahoma City Sept. 28, 2015.
Funding for each project announced is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement.
In 2015, the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority completed a water treatment plant to bring safe and plentiful water to Boone, Newton and Searcy counties in northwest Arkansas. USDA provided $62 million in loans and grants. The rural water systems in these counties were plagued by excessive amounts of naturally occurring radon, radium and fluoride in their groundwater supplies, causing them to be under administrative orders from the state health department. Approximately 20,000 rural Arkansas residents now have a safe, dependable supply of water as a result of USDA's investment.
Newton and Searcy counties are persistent poverty counties and are within USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Launched in 2010, StrikeForce is part of the Obama administration's commitment to address persistent poverty across America.