Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Funding to Improve Transportation, Generate Economic Opportunity in Rural and Native American Communities

Press Release

By:  Thomas Vilsack
Date: March 15, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has selected the Community Transportation Association of America to receive grant funding that will be used to help bring transportation improvements to rural areas in seven states.

"We know that areas with strong transportation systems attract and retain businesses and improve the quality of life in rural towns," Vilsack said. "These grants from USDA will help Native American communities in three states improve existing local passenger transportation systems. One of the best ways to rebuild rural communities is to improve the transportation infrastructure because doing so often has a catalytic effect in creating economic growth."

The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) was selected to receive $750,000 in grants to provide technical assistance to organizations in their efforts to enhance passenger transportation service in rural areas and rural Native American communities and improve modes of transportation in those areas.

Of the $750,000, $500,000 will be used to assist organizations in Alaska (Rural areas surrounding Fairbanks); Illinois (Warren and Henderson Counties); Maine (Cumberland County); and New Jersey (Cape May). The remaining $250,000 will be used to assist several Native American communities and tribal organizations with transportation improvements and planning in Mississippi (The Mississippi Band of Choctaw in Neshoba County); New Mexico (The Pueblo of Acoma) and (The Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo); and Oklahoma (Roger Mills, Dewey, Custer, Washita, Blaine, Canadian and Kingfisher Counties).

USDA's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program continues to bring economic opportunity to rural citizens. One recent successful undertaking involved a project that benefited the Oglala Sioux Tribe based in Pineridge, S. D. Plagued by high unemployment, isolation and other social issues, the Tribe received assistance from a 2002 a study that was conducted by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) to develop a transit and facility plan. CTAA worked with a consultant to develop a decentralized, fixed-route transit system designed to serve the tribe's 42,000 members who live on the reservation. Since service on the system began last year, it has helped reduce pedestrian-related accidents, while increasing employment opportunities and access to education and human services for tribal members of all ages. The transit system includes a full service maintenance facility and administration offices, along with vehicles and satellite facilities.

The funding for this program is administered through USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program (RBEG). It will be provided for projects where at least three-quarters of the benefits will be received by members of a Federally Recognized Tribe. The beneficiary of the project may also be a tribally-owned business venture. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. These funds are not from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

USDA Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of 6,100 employees located in Washington D.C. and 500 state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $130 billion in loans and loan guarantees.