U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers today announced that USDA is providing $5.8 million for grants and loans to support rural economic development projects and create jobs in 11 states. In Hawaii, Feed the Hunger Foundation (FTHF) received a $500,000 loan to make microloans to rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises. The funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
“This funding will help organizations strengthen their local economies by giving them access to capital that they would not have had otherwise,” Rikkers said. “USDA is proud to support small, rural businesses so they can compete in the marketplace.”
“The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program provides new capital to rural small businesses that enables them to expand their operations, enter into new markets, and increase job opportunities,” said Chris Kanazawa, Rural Development State Director. “This loan will help Feed the Hunger Foundation continue their work of assisting individual business anywhere within the food system through microloans investing in healthier, local and sustainable food. This results in socially-responsible impacts the borrowers make in their local communities while they overcome poverty, language and other social barriers.”
Feed the Hunger Foundation provides loans to low-income people, primarily immigrant food entrepreneurs on the islands of Maui, Oahu and Hawaii. Fifty percent of their clients are female headed households. Their goal is to eliminate poverty and hunger through microfinance while at the same time, providing Hawaii with local, sustainable food that is healthy and accessible.
RMAP helps very small, rural businesses compete in the larger economy by giving microenterprises access to capital to grow their businesses. Nonprofit organizations, federally-recognized Tribes, public institutions of higher learning and businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees are eligible to apply for RMAP. The project must be in a rural area outside a city or town with a population of fewer than 50,000 residents, and funding may be used for working capital, debt refinancing and for purchasing equipment, supplies and real estate.
IRP provides loans at a 1 percent interest rate to local intermediaries that relend to businesses in support of economic development projects. Nonprofit organizations, cooperatives, federally-recognized Tribes and public agencies are eligible to apply for this program. The ultimate recipients are individuals or public or private organizations in rural communities with populations of fewer than 50,000. Lenders must also be eligible to operate a revolving loan fund, have a record of successfully assisting rural businesses and communities and have the ability to repay the loan.
USDA Rural Development has a strong track record of strengthening rural businesses and economies. In 2014, the agency approved a $500,000 RMAP loan and a $105,000 grant for the Midcoast Council of Governments in Maine whose mission is to improve economic opportunity. To date, the project has created 26 jobs, saved 96 and assisted 23 businesses in the Midcoast Economic Development District region.
Since 2009, USDA’s Rural Development agency (@USDARD) has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 185,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.