U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday unveiled an innovative partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development with community development organizations from across the country, providing $401 million of Community Facilities program funds to recipients with a track record of successful programs to help reduce poverty in some of the nation’s poorest and most isolated rural communities.
Twenty-six community development organizations were approved to draw upon the funding to provide long-term, low-interest financing to be “re-lent” to local entities to build, acquire, maintain, or renovate essential community facilities. The funds also may be used for capacity building and to finance essential community services, such as education, health care, and infrastructure.
“This effort builds on our commitment to lifting up the economic prospects of communities that have not benefited from the revitalization of rural America,” Vilsack said. “By engaging with local and national partners, private-sector financial institutions and philanthropic organizations, USDA will inject a game-changing level of investment capital to reduce poverty in targeted rural areas where the capacity for growth has not been realized.”
United Bank, based in Atmore, Alabama, has been selected to serve as a lender in the program. United Bank’s loan totals $40 million, which will now be re-loaned to local communities. This is the largest Community Facilities Relending Program loan in the United States.
Alabama 1st District U.S. Congressman Bradley Byrne, who represents Atmore, applauded the new initiative.
“I applaud the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture to help our rural communities in Southwest Alabama,” said Byrne in a news release. “These rural communities face many distinct challenges, and this loan program will allow them to make critical investments in infrastructure to improve the quality of life for local residents.”
“I’m especially pleased a local bank, United Bank in Atmore, has been selected to serve as the community lending institution, and I look forward to following the impact the program has on Alabama’s rural communities.”
Public bodies, community-based nonprofit corporations, and federally recognized tribes are eligible to apply for the loan program. Funds from the loan program can be used on a range of essential community facilities or equipment including healthcare facilities, town halls, courthouses, child care centers, fire departments, police vehicles, libraries, food pantries, and more.
Atmore’s specific funds will be available to counties in Southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida.