Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett yesterday announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $181 million in 88 projects that will build community infrastructure and facilities in 27 states including Vermont.
USDA has approved a loan for $7.4 million for the City of Winooski. This Rural Development investment will help the Downtown Revitalization Project become a reality for the City of Winooski by funding the streetscaping portion. The current streetscape and traffic layout do not promote alternative modes of transportation. Pedestrian crossings are limited, and bicycle accommodations do not exist. This loan will help to alleviate these problems. The underground utilities work will be financed through a commercial lender for $6.5 million.
“Streetscape projects are so important in shaping the character of our rural communities, they don’t just effect the mobility of a city like Winooski it is also an important component of a communities ability to connect with each other, and its overall wellbeing.” Vermont State Director Anthony Linardos said. “Projects like this build better infrastructure for Vermont towns, create economic activity, and bring a better community aesthetic.”
There are many benefits to streetscaping in an urban area. Planting in the public right-of-way will enhance the city's physical, ecological, and cultural aspects. Trees and landscaping contribute to the urban environment by reducing air pollution, improving the urban heat island effect and hydrologic conditions, and sequestering carbon, as well as contributing to wildlife habitat. Additional benefits include increased property values and reduced maintenance costs of other streetscape elements. Consistent tree plantings along a street narrow the perceived width of a street, encouraging decreased vehicular speed and increased awareness of pedestrians. This is important given the project will occur at the gateway to the city which sees thousands of cars every day.
“Infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity in small towns across our country,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to building prosperity in rural America through modern infrastructure.”
Hazlett announced the funding during a forum co-sponsored by the National Association of Counties and the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation. USDA is making the investments through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The funding helps rural areas make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as schools, libraries and day care centers.
The projects announced will help improve the quality of life for 1.1 million rural residents in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally and state-recognized Native American tribes. Applicants and projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Loan amounts have ranged from $10,000 to $165 million.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Omnibus spending bill increased the budget for the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant program to $2.8 billion, up $200 million from FY 2017.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.