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May 26 - USDA Offers Programs for Rural Community and Business Development

May 26, 2013 – Cities or counties with less than 20,000 in population are eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Program.  A number of towns in the Coastal Georgia area will qualify. 


The CFP is a loan program as well as a grant program. Annual total funds available for granting for the entire state is $600,000 but it is anticipated the Sequester will reduce that to about $540,000 very soon, according to Quinton Robinson, Georgia State Director, USDA Rural Development.

But in addition, Robinson said the total statewide amount available for loans is $42 million. Interest rates on loans fluctuate, but are currently at about 3.75 percent with a maximum loan term of 40 years. Loans are obtained directly from the state USDA office and not through local banks.

Funding from the CFP must be used for a facility and/or equipment that provides an essential service that a community would ordinarily provide for its citizens. Examples are police cars, police stations, fire trucks, fire stations, ambulances, hospitals, road maintenance equipment and schools.

“What’s unique about what I’m doing with that particular program is I’m setting aside a portion of the grant dollars for STEM education,” said Robinson. (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.) “If I can build a school with my loan dollars, then with my grant dollars . . . I’m buying robotic equipment as an additional tool for STEM education in rural communities,” he added.

Robinson said his office is about to award a technical college a combination grant/loan for $50,000. The technical school is putting up the remainder of the costs. “They’ll be purchasing robotic equipment and teleconferencing equipment,” he said. “At this one technical college, 14 or 15 high schools can call into the center and have the same piece of robotic equipment in their school room and one professor can teach 14 different classes.”

The CFP will not grant 100 percent of project costs, according to Robinson. However, a combination grant/loan arrangement could be used to fund a qualifying project. How much of a project can be paid for by a grant depends on the poverty rate of the community. “The poorest community in Georgia may receive funding of up to 75 percent,” said Robinson. The balance could then be borrowed from the program. Robinson said that on average, Georgia communities receive grants of around 52 percent of the total project cost.

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