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USDA Announces More Than $1.5 Million in Loans and Grants to Increase Economic Opportunity, Support Rural Microenterprise Development

Anne Todd
Release Date

USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O'Brien announced the selection of five Nebraska utilities and development organizations for more than $1.5 million in loans and grants to support rural business activities that will boost economic growth in rural communities.

In Nebraska, the Perennial Public Power District received a Rural Economic Development Grant of $300,000 to help Fillmore County Hospital in Geneva, Neb. equip and furnish its new behavioral health facility.  Through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program there are four recipients.  Southeast Nebraska Development, Inc. in Lincoln, Neb. received a $250,000 loan and $62,500 grant to make microloans and provide technical assistance to very small businesses in 15 Nebraska counties.  The Nebraska Enterprise Fund of Oakland, Neb received $100,000 loan to make microloans to support very small rural businesses across the state.  The Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb. will use a $500,000 loan to make microloans to support very small rural businesses statewide.  First Ponca Financial Inc. of Grand Island, Neb. will receive a $300,000 loan and $75,000 grant to make microloans and provide technical assistance to very small businesses in 12 Nebraska counties, two counties in Iowa and one in South Dakota.

"These USDA investments capitalize rural small businesses, which allows the owners to expand operations, enter into new markets and increase hiring," O'Brien said.  "The investments we are announcing today include financing to development organizations for microlending to very small rural businesses.  Funds are also being provided to utilities to pass on to local businesses for development projects.  These innovative programs increase economic opportunities in rural areas – a top priority of Secretary Vilsack and President Obama."

Funds are being provided through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program (REDLG) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).  Under the REDLG program, USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to local utilities which then, in turn, relend the funds to local businesses (ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas.  The program funds business start-up or expansion, business incubators, education and training facilities and equipment, community development assistance, health care and other projects that support rural jobs.

Under RMAP, USDA provides loans to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) that, in turn, make microloans for business start-up or development to eligible microentrepreneurs defined as very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.  Grants are available for MDOs to provide technical assistance and training, particularly in rural areas experiencing persistent poverty or significant outmigration.  USDA does not directly provide funds to the ultimate recipients.

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program was created under the 2008 Farm Bill and recently reauthorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program directly supports the Obama Administration's Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative to boost the manufacturing sector and create well-paying manufacturing jobs, using economic development resources available through existing Federal programs.

The funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their loan or grant agreements.

President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger.  Under his 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.