Recover Act Stories from USDA.gov
U.S. forests and working lands supply the country with the majority of the surface water Americans drink. They also clean our air, preserve our wildlife habitats, and are among our Nation’s greatest assets in the battle against global climate change. Through the Recovery Act, the Obama Administration has demonstrated its commitment to protecting these crucial assets and making rural America a healthier place to live by supporting critical investments in the cleanliness and health of the rural environment. These investments to clean up polluted land and water resources will improve the vitality of these rural areas and increase their appeal as places to live and work.
Further, with Recovery Act funding, the Forest Service will be reducing future operation and maintenance costs; protecting water quality; promoting health and safety while building a natural resource workforce; converting facilities to “greener”, more efficient technologies; and expanding youth education and job training. As of January 2011, the Forest Service has completed 202 projects, and all other projects are underway. These environmental projects are helping to create private sector jobs, protecting rural communities from large wildfires, and improving the health of our forests, water, and air resources.
CLEAN ENERGY INVESTMENTS
Investments from the Recovery Act are also helping to fund the largest, single energy-grid modernization in U.S. history. Through the Recovery Act, DOE and USDA are harnessing clean energy sources developed in rural America and integrating them into a modernized electric grid to power the rest of the Nation. Under DOE’s Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, 21 members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) received awards totaling $215 million to modernize the rural electric grid. In addition, NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN) received a $33.9 million grant for a unique, nationwide demonstration project that will bring together 27 rural electric cooperatives in 10 states to install more than 153,000 Smart Grid components. With a smart grid system, our Nation will be able to integrate into the country’s electricity system clean energy--like wind and solar power--originating predominantly in rural areas. As we double our renewable energy generating capacity, new transmission lines will be needed to bring this power to the grid. These construction projects will create jobs in rural America and allow new renewable energy developments to take place.
INCREASING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN RURAL AMERICA
Better access to quality jobs is a central priority of the Obama Administration for all communities across the country. In rural areas, where incomes and rates of educational attainment are lower than in urban areas, these Recovery Act investments are particularly important. While the U.S. agricultural economy is strong, farmers are increasingly turning to off-farm jobs to get by. To keep farmers on the farm, and to offer opportunities to the next generation of rural Americans who come from non-farming backgrounds, the U.S. needs to build a thriving companion economy to complement agriculture in rural America. To this end, the Recovery Act provided critical assistance to rural businesses through low-interest loans and grants and helped to bolster the rural economic foundation by providing affordable housing.
INVESTMENTS IN RURAL BUSINESSES
Some of the most important actions that can be taken to support rural areas, in both the short and long term, are new investments in local business development. Every rural business represents an essential place of employment and local infrastructure. The Recovery Act helped a number of programs to create and sustain successful rural businesses. Recovery Act funding enabled USDA’s Rural Business Service (RBS) to maximize its investment in rural businesses and communities through its existing business programs. RBS worked with small and emerging private businesses to get capital flowing to improve the rural economic climate. While the availability of private sector credit decreased, the Recovery Act allowed for RBS’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program to guarantee 528 loans, totaling $1.6 billion, for rural businesses across the country. RBS anticipates that 33,000 jobs will be created or saved as a result of these investments. Further, through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program, RBS provided $19.4 million in small business assistance, which is expected to create or save roughly 13,000 jobs for rural residents. These direct investments will continue to help rural businesses grow, innovate, and create jobs into the future.
In the past decade, more than half of all rural counties in the U.S. lost population. With fewer educational and employment opportunities at home, young people are seeking opportunities in suburban and urban locations. It is critical that the U.S. focuses on reinvigorating rural communities by cultivating economic opportunities and enabling rural residents to invest in quality, affordable housing, which provides a cornerstone for economic growth. The Obama Administration recognizes the vital role homeownership plays in improving lives, creating jobs and economic opportunities, and strengthening America’s neighborhoods.
For 75 years, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) has supported rural homeowners by financing critical home repairs and by helping income-eligible Americans achieve their housing goals. With $11 billion in funding made available by the Recovery Act through its Single Family Housing Program, RHS enabled more than 90,000 rural residents to become homeowners. Through $72 million in Recovery Act funding disbursed by the Department of Defense, military single and family housing units and community infrastructure in rural areas of eight states were constructed, repaired or replaced. These investments made a difference in improving the lives of single service members and families whose loved ones are serving our Nation.
GEOTHERMAL HEATING BUSINESS
The Geothermal Green Team in Gretna, Nebraska, uses geothermal heating to reduce their customers’ carbon footprint and cut their monthly energy bills by 30% or more. The team drills several holes 500 feet deep into the ground and runs pipe from the building through the ground and back to the building.
The track-mounted sonic drill vibrates 180 times a second, cutting through dirt, sand, gravel and rock, helping to push the polyethylene pipe deep into the ground. Volk expects up to $2 million a year in additional revenue because of the new rig.