Barbourville, Ky., Mar 28, 2014 -- USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and Kentucky Rural Development State Director Thomas Fern joined Congressman Hal Rogers today to announce $23 million in USDA funding for the Knox County Hospital District.
"USDA is firmly committed to working side-by-side with the residents and community leaders of eastern Kentucky to improve the overall quality of life and economic opportunities of the region,” Hernandez said. "Today’s announcement will result in greater access to quality health care and save local jobs important to residents and the economies of several eastern Kentucky counties."
The Knox County Hospital District will receive $23 million in loan funds to purchase the property, facilities, and operations of the existing Knox County Hospital located in Barbourville, Kentucky. This action is necessary in order to keep the hospital operational and to provide reliable and continued health care services for a rural population of approximately 31,883 in Knox County, one of Kentucky’s persistent poverty counties.
Following the announcement in Barbourville, Ky., Hernandez visited Murrell Mitchell Apartments I & II, in Corbin, Ky., to highlight their participation in USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. The apartment complex serves as a site for children to receive nutritious meals during the summer break from school. Hernandez said an effort is underway by USDA to reach out to USDA-financed housing complexes in Kentucky to encourage other complexes to open their facilities to serve as a site for the Summer Food Service Program. USDA has provided financing for over 400 housing complexes in rural Kentucky. The effort is part of USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative to work across USDA programs and agencies to assist impoverished communities utilize USDA resources throughout Kentucky. More information on the StrikeForce Initiative is available at USDA’s StrikeForce website.
Hernandez broke ground for for 13 high-performance homes that will be pre-fabricated in a Kentucky houseboat factory, marking the second phase of an energy efficient housing community developed in partnership with the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Southern Tier Housing Corporation and state and local partners. All 13 homes will include photovoltaic (solar) power generation equipment. USDA is supporting potential homeowners to finance purchases in this development.
These announcements are part of the Promise Zone Initiative in Southeastern Kentucky. Under the the coordination of the Kentucky Highland Investment Corporation, eight Kentucky counties: Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry, and Whitley comprise the Kentucky Highland Promise Zone. These counties are experiencing an average poverty rate of more than 30 percent.
Through the Promise Zones Initiative, which was outlined in the President's 2013 State of the Union address, the federal government will partner with and invest in designated communities to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, expand educational opportunities, and improve public safety. The Kentucky Highlands is one of the first five Promise Zones designated by President Obama in January 2014. An additional 15 Promise Zones will be designated over the next three years.
They are also part of the USDA’s StrikeForce on Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative which coordinates the Department’s efforts to increase economic opportunities and address the needs of rural communities suffering from persisitent poverty. Since 2010, StrikeForce has partnered with over 400 community partners in 700 counties across twenty states and invested more than $9.7 billion in rural America.
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.