USDA releases funding for rural economic development

Electric cooperatives should take advantage of $500 million the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set aside for projects that support economic and community development plans across multi-jurisdictional areas.

Electrical co-ops can be part of the planning process that secures grants and loans for rural businesses and community facilities through USDA's Strategic Economic and Community Development program.

Electrical co-ops can be part of the planning process that secures grants and loans for rural businesses and community facilities through USDA’s Strategic Economic and Community Development program.

The Strategic Economic and Community Development program (SECD) is the first new funding available from the USDA in a long time. The USDA put the provision into the 2014 Farm Bill with an eye on advancing projects that support long-term community and economic growth strategies and capitalize on the unique strengths of the rural area. The four Rural Development programs under the SECD program include Community Facilities, Water and Environmental Programs, Rural Business Development Grants and Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans.

Because co-op service territories often cover multiple towns, cities and counties, there’s an opportunity for power providers to work with councils of governments, regional authorities, coalitions of municipalities and similar associations. Co-ops should reach out to these entities to make sure their priorities are part of regionally adopted plans.

USDA will base consideration on:

  1. How well the project supports a multijurisdictional plan
  2. How well the plan addresses collaboration, regionalism and investments from other federal and philanthropic agencies

Interested participants should have their plans reviewed by their state’s staff early in the process for feedback and possible modification before submitting it with the formal application.

The National Association of Development Organizations presented an informational webinar on Jan. 12 covering an overview of the SECD program and how to apply for funding. A recording of the webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. and the full slide presentation are available to download.

Applications are due June 30, 2016. Contact your local USDA Rural Development office or contact Farah Ahmad in the national office for more information.

Source: Electric Co-op Today You are leaving WAPA.gov. via Green Power News, 3/7/16