The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday it is accepting applications for loans and grants to support community development projects, kick-start business expansion and create jobs. The agency has a total of $44.3 million to assign, agency Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
“These USDA investments are part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing efforts to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for rural entrepreneurs,” Vilsack said. “Through them, USDA is working with local organizations to provide capital to help small business owners achieve their goals. These investments are helping rural residents take the next steps on the ladder to greater success and opportunity.”
José Otero-García, Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico said the assistance is being provided through two USDA Rural Development programs: the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) and the Rural Micro Entrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). The Farm Bill reauthorized both programs through 2018. For Fiscal Year 2014, $18.9 million in IRP loans are available, and $25.4 million in RMAP loans and grants are available.
Under IRP, the USDA lends money to economic development intermediaries who re-lend it to rural businesses that might not otherwise be able to obtain such financing. Under RMAP, the USDA provides loans and grants to microenterprise development organizations to help micro entrepreneurs — defined as very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees — access microloans to start or develop businesses.
Over the years, several entities have benefitted from federal USDA funding, namely the Ceiba Housing and Economic Development Corporation, which received a $500,000 RMAP loan to capitalize a rural microloan fund to make microloans to rural micro entrepreneurs and microenterprises and a grant of $105,000 to provide technical assistance, and COFECC, which received a $750,000 IRP loan to provide low–interest loans for business and community development.