Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for grants to assist communities with extremely high energy costs.
USDA Rural Development is making available up to $7.7 million in High Energy Cost Grants to assist communities where home energy expenditures exceed 275 percent of the national average. Grant awards range from $50,000 to $3 million.
The agency is also making available up to $1 million in bulk fuel grants to state entities to establish a revolving loan fund to provide a more cost-effective means of purchasing fuel that cannot be shipped by road or rail. Eligible areas include places where fuel delivery by surface transportation is not practical or is prohibitively expensive and where the area primarily depends on delivery by water or air.
Funds may be used to acquire, construct, extend, upgrade or otherwise improve energy generation, transmission or distribution facilities and to establish fuel transport systems that are less expensive than road and rail.
Applications are due September 3, 2013. For additional information, see page 46908 of the August 2, 2013 Federal Register at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-08-02/html/2013-18689.htm, or visit the Rural Utilities Service website at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UEP_Our_Grant_Programs.html.
Eligible applicants include, states, local governments, businesses, federally-recognized Indian Tribes and Tribal entities, and other entities organized under state law.
Since the first awards were announced in 2004, more than 80 High Energy Cost Grants have been awarded for more than $110 million. For example, in 2012 the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative received $2.5 million to construct an eight-mile electrical intertie between New Stuyahok and Ekwok in rural western Alaska.
According to O’Brien, today's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and he said that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.
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.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.