U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the approval of two grants totaling $1 million to help rural water and sewer utilities recover from recent and future natural disasters.
“USDA is a strong partner in the long-term recovery of rural communities after a season of devastating hurricanes, Perdue said. “These grants will provide resources to rural communities need to assess damage, develop rebuilding plans and get access to technical assistance and clean water. USDA is standing with these affected communities every step of the way.”
The USDA is awarding the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) each a $500,000 grant.
The funding is being provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Technical Assistance and Training Grant program in USDA Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs (WEP), said Luis R. García-Boria, Rural Development acting state director for Puerto Rico.
NRWA and RCAP will use the grants to provide training and technical assistance, onsite repairs and utility management advice for rural water and sewer utilities impacted by disasters. These utilities serve communities that have 10,000 people, or less.
Many of them have very limited capacity after a catastrophic event to access immediate assistance for assessments and restoration. Initial damage assessments can cost between $400 and $5,000, depending on what the engineers and contractors charge for the service.
USDA’s assistance helps these small utilities recover faster and enables first responders, rural citizens and businesses to have clean water. In Puerto Rico, there are 233 water systems registered with the Health Department. This represents 3 percent of the population that does not get its water from the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
These grants also will be used to help rural utilities apply for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) disaster programs, file insurance recovery claims, and strengthen operations and continuity of service plans in times of emergencies. Technical assistance will include assisting new and returning Rural Development WEP funding recipients to prepare applications for water and waste disposal loans and grants and other financing options to supplement their needs.