Washington, D.C., Aug 18, 2011 -- Local Contact:
Dawn Knepp (717) 237-2286
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-7623
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Support to Create Jobs, Improve Health and Safety for Rural Americans in 31 States and Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON, August 18, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced support for projects to create jobs and improve the quality of life in rural communities in 31 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement as part of the Obama Administration’s week-long focus on the rural economy and the White House Rural Council, which is addressing key areas of need in rural America including helping rural small businesses access capital, expanding rural job search and training services, and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.
"The funding we are announcing today will help rural communities remain attractive places for job creation and business expansion,” Vilsack said. “The Obama administration and USDA are committed to ensuring that rural communities remain economically competitive by offering residents access to quality health care services, modern library facilities and school buildings, and reliable emergency equipment and services.
Financing totaling nearly $55 million in loans and grants will support 107 projects through USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Program. Eligible projects include essential community facilities for public use in rural areas such as fire protection, safety, health care, education and other community needs.
For example, Highlands Hospital in Connellsville, Pennsylvania received funds to renovate a building into an autism center, meeting a need to serve a growing autistic population in Fayette County. A Memorandum of Understanding was recently executed between USDA Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve collaboration and to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in rural communities.
A list of other community facilities projects that were selected for funding in Pennsylvania is below. Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement.
• Coal Country Hangout –Cambria County- Grant to replace the roof and make the facility ADA-compliant
• White Haven Fire Company No. 1– Luzerne County-Loan to construct a fire station
• Hughestown Hose Company –Luzerne County_Loan to purchase a fire truck
Today’s announcement is an example of investments the Obama Administration is making to help create jobs and grow the rural economy. In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.
On Tuesday, President Obama hosted the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. The Forum brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities nationwide. The President engaged directly with a variety of rural leaders from across the nation to discuss the importance of growing small businesses and strengthening the middle class in rural America.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
Through its Rural Development mission area, USDA administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of approximately 110 employees located in 11 offices throughout Pennsylvania. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers, and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information on programs offered by USDA Rural Development, contact the Pennsylvania State Office at (717) 237-2299 or visit its website at www.rurdev.usda.gov/pa.
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