The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday the availability of more than $40 million in funding to promote long-term economic growth and community vitality in rural areas, and is seeking applications through three community and economic development programs administered by its Rural Development division.
“The purpose of this program is to improve the economic conditions of our rural communities, provide more services and create new jobs,” said José Otero-García, Rural Development state director for Puerto Rico, adding this announcement includes $30.6 million in zero-interest loans and $9.2 million grants to establish revolving loan funds that finance business and economic development activities in rural areas.
Applications for these funds will be accepted through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program (REDLG). Rural utilities that are eligible for USDA financing under the Rural Electrification Act and have the capacity to serve as intermediary lenders may apply to USDA Rural Development to administer the funds locally for the benefit of specifically identified projects.
These intermediaries relend REDLG funds at 0 percent to assist with business startup and expansion, business technical assistance and job training, community facilities projects that support economic development. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis through USDA Rural Development States Offices and are evaluated for funding consideration monthly.
Through the Rural Business Opportunity Grant program, USDA Rural Development is accepting competitive grant applications to improve economic conditions in designated Rural Economic Area Partnership Zones. Government entities, nonprofit corporations, institutions of higher education, and rural cooperatives may apply for grants of up to $100,000.
Funding may be used to support business incubators, feasibility studies and business plans, long-term strategic business planning, leadership and entrepreneurial training and other related efforts. $919,820 is reserved for projects with Rural Economic Area Partnerships.
In additions, USDA also has $500,000 in grant funds available for the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program for rural transportation projects. Funds may be used to provide technical assistance and training to help rural communities improve passenger transportation services or facilities.