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USDA Announces Availability of Loans and Grants to Support Rural Economic Development

Vicki Schurman
Release Date

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is accepting applications for loans and grants to support community development projects, business expansion and job creation.

 “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.”

 Assistance is being provided through two USDA Rural Development programs: the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).  The 2014 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, USDA lends money to economic development intermediaries (non-profits and public bodies) who re-lend it to rural businesses (ultimate recipients) that might not     otherwise be able to obtain such financing.  The program supports sustainable economic development and helps create or retain jobs in disadvantaged and remote communities.

USDA encourages intermediaries to work with state and regional representatives and with other public and private organizations that can provide complementary resources.  Since President Obama took office, the IRP program has created or saved an estimated 92,000 jobs.

Under RMAP, USDA provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to help microentrepreneurs — very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees — access microloans to start or develop businesses.  MDOs use the funds to provide training and technical assistance to eligible small businesses or to establish revolving loan funds to provide micro-loans, typically $5,000 to $50,000, to rural microentrepreneurs.  Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the RMAP program has provided $52 million for 257 projects to support very small business enterprises.

Details about how to apply for 2014 IRP and RMAP funding begin on page 28888 of today’s Federal Register.

The Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD) in Lincoln, used $974,000 of IRP loan funds to make 21 loans.  The success of these loans has created 205 new jobs and retained 79 job positions in a 15 county area of southeast Nebraska.  The types of businesses that SENDD has assisted are varied but include, among others:  fur harvesting business; funeral home; custom molding business; photography studio; welding and manufacturing business; custom kitchen installation/design; custom cabinetry; construction business; book bindery; recycling business; pet food processing; meat locker; chiropractor; fabrication; dance studio; marina, taxidermist, food product production/distribution business; auto repair; telecommunications; and a grocery store.

Rural Development provided $300,000 in RMAP loan and $75,000 in grant funds to the Nebraska Enterprise Fund (NEF), a statewide non-profit.  Since January 2011 Nebraska Enterprise Fund has closed 12 micro-loans, creating 16 new jobs and retaining 19 job positions.  Micro-loans were provided to minorities including women, veterans and disabled entrepreneurs.  Grant funds have provided technical assistance to 186 micro-entrepreneurs seeking to build management skills, prepare cash flow, budget and other loan application documentation, to make informed decisions to prepare for future loans.

Applications for regular IRP funding must be received by June 30, 2014; applications for Native American Set-Aside must be received by June 19, 2014.  Maximum IRP loan request $1 million.

Applications for RMAP funding must be received by June 30, 2014; RMAP Native American Set-Aside is not available.  Minimum RMAP loan amount is $50,000, the maximum is $500,000.

To discuss a proposed project or to obtain application resources, please contact one of the following Business Program Specialists:

* Marla Marx, marla.marx@ne.usda.gov or 308-632-2195 extension 1132 – panhandle including northwest and southwest counties

* Kelley Messenger, kelley.messenger@ne.usda.gov  or 308-237-3118 extension 1120 – north and south central counties

* Bill Sheppard, bill.sheppard@ne.usda.gov  or 402-371-5350 extension 1004 – northeast and southeast counties

* Deborah Drbal, deborah.drbal@ne.usda.gov or 402-437-5558

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities.  Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.