U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday the availability of loan and grant funds to support rural micro entrepreneurs and microenterprises, with funding reaching as much as $500,000.
“By supporting very small business enterprises through the Rural Micro entrepreneur Assistance Program, the USDA has been able to direct assistance to small, rural businesses that otherwise would not be able to obtain the credit,” said Vilsack. “This program has shown that even a modest investment of federal dollars can have a huge impact for the local economy in small towns across rural America.”
The USDA’s Rural Micro entrepreneur Assistance Program was established under the 2008 Farm Bill to support the development and ongoing success of rural micro entrepreneurs and microenterprises, which are rural businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
Under the program, the USDA may provide loans of up to $500,000 to Microenterprise Development Organizations. They, in turn, grant microloans for business start-ups to eligible micro entrepreneurs who are unable to obtain conventional credit elsewhere. Grants of up to $30,000 are available for MDOs to provide technical assistance and training, particularly in rural areas that have experienced significant outmigration, said José Otero-García, Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico.
In May 2012, USDA provided the Ceiba Housing & Economic Development Corporation Inc., a $500,000 loan and $105,000 grant to capitalize a revolving loan fund and provide technical assistance for microbusinesses in rural eastern Puerto Rico. In the first year of the project, this organization helped a microenterprise — a new pharmacy in Naguabo — with a direct loan for $50,000 that has created five jobs. Funds are still available for micro entrepreneurs in rural areas, Otero-García said.
RMAP applications are due by September 13, 2013. More information about how to apply is available in the August 14, 2013 Federal Register announcement or by contacting any USDA Rural Development state office.