Washington, DC, Jan 17, 2012 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today provided highlights of USDA Rural Development fiscal year (FY) 2011 investments in job-creating businesses, infrastructure and housing for Americans living in rural communities across the nation. According to estimates, Rural Development investments created or saved about 440,000 jobs last year.
"The Obama Administration is focused on putting people back to work and putting money back into the pockets of working Americans," said Vilsack. "At USDA we are partnering with businesses, non-profits, cooperatives, Tribes and local governments to do our part to stimulate economic activity and create an environment that grows jobs in rural communities."
In the federal fiscal year that ended on September 30, Vilsack said Rural Development, through its Business, Cooperative, Utilities and Housing programs provided housing opportunities for over 143,000 families, upgraded community facilities, boosted the reliability of the electric grid, funded renewable energy projects, and through the Community Connect and other broadband programs supported efforts to provide affordable, reliable Internet service to rural homes.
The largest portion of FY 2011 funding, 63 percent, supported fee-generating loan guarantees that enabled private lenders to safely increase the pool of capital available in rural areas for credit-worthy businesses, communities and homebuyers, without direct cost to the Government.
About 34 percent of Rural Development investments last year were made in the form of secure, affordable direct loans that will be paid back to the government, with interest. Through its Rural Utilities programs Rural Development provided more than 800 direct loans to help small communities install or upgrade water systems, dispose of waste and upgrade landfills to protect environmental quality. USDA also provided technical assistance and training grants to communities to ensure that the newly installed systems are maintained.
Another 430 direct loans were made through the Community Facilities program to upgrade education facilities, emergency services, and hospitals across the nation. Rural Development also provided more than $63 million in direct loans to help local organizations capitalize self-renewing revolving loan funds that last year assisted more than 1,000 small businesses. In total, these relending programs are estimated to have helped local companies create or save nearly 20,000 jobs.
Vilsack noted that grants leveraging significant public and private investments constitute roughly three percent of Rural Development's FY 2011total funding nationwide. This funding was targeted at forming the building blocks of economic development, such as basic infrastructure, renewable energy, technical assistance, education and workforce training efforts.
Last year, Rural Development also provided 2,000 rural businesses, farmers and ranchers with Rural Energy for America grants for up to 25 percent of the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Funds were provided for a wide range of technologies to improve energy efficiency in systems ranging from water pumps to maple syrup production. Funds for cost-effective solar and wind projects were also provided, along with support for anaerobic digesters which protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while generating electricity.
Through its Rural Housing Single Family Guarantee Program, Rural Development provided loan guarantees that helped more than 130,000 families secure affordable home financing through private lenders, while helping spur the struggling housing market as well as construction, retail sales and professional services. Through its direct housing loans, Rural Development also helped more than 13,500 lower-income families purchase or repair their homes on affordable terms. Combined, these single family housing programs have not only helped support a struggling housing market, but they have also injected more than $17 billion into local economies.
Secretary Vilsack noted that the agency's cost of doing business is less than two cents for every dollar invested in the future of rural communities. Last year, USDA Rural Development continued to streamline service delivery and cut regulations that stifle job creation. The agency is also engaged in ongoing White House Rural Council roundtable meetings with business and community leaders to hear their ideas on how to grow the economy.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $155 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. 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.