Washington, Aug 15, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for five projects to help rural Oklahoma communities improve their water infrastructure and community facilities. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. The announcement was made on the secretary's behalf by Audrey Rowe, Administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service while in Oklahoma. Several of the projects will directly benefit Native Americans.
"These loans and grants will have a tremendous impact on rural Oklahoma towns," Vilsack said. "They will help communities keep businesses and attract new ones. They also help ensure that residents, including members of Federally recognized Tribes, have access to safe drinking water, modern wastewater systems and vital community services."
The funding is being provided through two USDA Rural Development programs intended specifically for small, rural communities.
Here are a few details of today's awards:
The West Davis Rural Water Corporation, in Ratliff City, is receiving a $289,000 loan to complete the installation of a well and 108,000 feet of water line. This project will serve approximately 100 Native American families. Also, the Thomas Public Works Authority in Thomas has been selected for a $2.9 million loan and $1.2 million grant to construct a lagoon system. The authority will add a lift station and standby generator, install a new section of force main, and replace a sewer collection line and manholes.
The Billings Public Works Authority, in Billings, has been selected for an $877,000 loan to repair erosion to lagoon dikes on the retention system. The Earlsboro Public Works Authority, in Earlsboro, has been selected for a $732,000 loan and $337,000 grant to construct a lagoon holding cell to comply with a water quality consent order.
These water and waste loans are the latest examples of USDA Rural Development's ongoing support for Native American residents throughout Oklahoma. For example, the Citizen Potawatomie Nation, headquartered in Shawnee, Okla., recently closed on an approximately $1 million Rural Development loan and grant combination to make additional improvements to a rural water system the Nation purchased in 2006. These improvements will allow the Nation to serve additional Tribal members as well as many non-tribal members.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA has invested in nearly 4,000 water and wastewater infrastructure projects that have helped safeguard the health of 11 million rural residents and have created or saved 285,000 jobs.
Also today, as part of USDA's observance of Back to School Week, Administrator Rowe announced that the Woodland Public Schools, in Fairfax, Okla., will receive a $50,000 USDA Community Facilities grant to purchase equipment for the new agricultural building/classroom/community center. The school, in Osage County, will serve a community with a large Native American population. Almost one-third of Fairfax residents are of Native American heritage.
Funding for each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
According to Administrator Rowe, today's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and she said that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
Through its Rural Development mission area, USDA has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.
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