BUCKHANNON — The State Director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, Kris Warner, gave a compelling presentation to the Upshur County Commission at their meeting on Thursday. Warner made known the more than 40 programs the USDA offers throughout the state, which are committed to improving the economy and quality of life for rural America, here in the state of West Virginia.
USDA Rural Development is a federal agency with an abundance of resources. Warner noted that the program areas are rural housing and community facilities, rural utilities, and rural business and cooperative services. He expressed that the USDA is able to provide funding for these initiatives with loan, grant, and loan guarantee programs to invest in rural housing, business, community infrastructure, and energy projects.
Single family home loan guarantees and single-family housing repair loans, as well as grants are available to applicants who meet income-eligibility guidelines. Warner stated, “We assist low and very low-income applicants in obtaining decent, safe, and sanitary housing in eligible rural areas by providing payment assistance to increase an applicant’s repayment ability.” He explained that the amount of assistance is determined by the adjusted family income.
Warner went on to advise that very low-income families have the ability to repair, improve, and modernize their home via the home repair program. The loans and grants available through the home repair program enable families to remove health or safety hazards. Warner stated, “The program assists approved lenders in providing low income families the ability to own adequate, modest, decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings as their primary residence in rural areas.”
Steve Collins, the Community Program Specialist for the USDA Rural Development, was also present to address the commission on their community programs. Collins explained that the community programs help rural communities install, expand and modernize their water and wastewater infrastructures. He also reported that USDA Rural Development community programs had assisted the Adrian Public Service District with a $1 million waterline extension grant in 2012 and a $950,000 loan and grant combination for new water storage tanks in 2013. The USDA assisted Mt. Hope Water Association with a $300,000 loan in 2013 for a booster station replacement as well.
Collins provided further information on the community facilities programs, which he stated, “Fund basically anything essential for public use, construction or equipment.” The community facilities program provides loans for construction or renovation of essential community facilities such as fire departments, police stations, courthouses and many more. Through this program, loans and grants are also available for necessary equipment, providing financing packages in low-income, high need communities up to 20,000 in population. The USDA has provided assistance in the of amount of nearly $1 million for community facilities projects in Upshur County spanning the last 10 years.
The USDA Rural Development also provides telecommunications programs that are administered out of the national office in Washington, DC. The telecommunications are 100 percent grant funded programs. The distance learning and telemedicine grant programs, which utilize video conferencing taught remotely, are most typically directed at colleges and universities. The rural broadband access loan and loan guarantees assist broadband providers in appropriating service to rural areas not currently being served.
The USDA Rural Development initiated a brand-new program this year. The Re-Connect Program is a rural e-connectivity pilot program, which offers loans, grants and loan/ grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in areas of rural America without sufficient access to broadband.
Business financing and energy are other areas the USDA assists community efforts and stimulates job growth. USDA Rural Development assisted the B&B Mart in Rock Cave, the City of Buckhannon, New Appalachian Farm, Fish Hawk Acres and Mountain Cap under this incentive.
During the fiscal year of 2018, USDA Rural Development invested more than $369 million in loans and grants to communities, businesses and individuals across rural WV. USDA housing assistance of $280 million provided help to over 6,800 families. Water and/or wastewater service was provided to more than 18,831 recipients. USDA Rural Development also helped to create or retain 296 jobs through work with 120 businesses. More than $31 million was invested in essential rural community facilities.
For more information on USDA Rural Development please contact www.rd.usda.gov/wv