Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) applauded a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to protect eligibility for Rural Development funding for over 900 rural communities across the country, including Atascadero, Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Nipomo, and Carpinteria through March 27, 2013. The modified definition of "rural" that allows these communities to qualify for USDA Rural Development funding was set to expire today, October 1, 2012, but USDA postponed the expiration date to March 27, 2013. Capps had been urging USDA to take this step for weeks.
This is great news for our rural communities on the Central Coast that can continue to apply for critical rural development funds. USDA Rural Development funding provides important resources to communities on the Central Coast to support a wide range of economic development and affordable housing projects. For example, People's Self Help Housing depends on USDA financing to build many of its affordable housing units throughout the Tri-Counties, including 23 currently under construction in Atascadero and 34 in Nipomo. While this is not a permanent fix, it's going to make a big difference for our rural communities on the Central Coast, and I will continue working toward a permanent solution when Congress returns in the fall," said Capps.
In September, Capps and a bipartisan group of over 100 lawmakers urged House leadership to include language to protect eligibility for Rural Development funding in the Continuing Resolution appropriations bill passed by Congress before it adjourned on September 21st. However, that language was not included in the legislation. In response, Capps urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure continued eligibility for its critical Rural Development program funding for affected communities. The USDA Rural Development program supports a wide range of affordable housing, economic development, and critical infrastructure projects in rural areas through grants, loans, and technical assistance. Click here to read about an example of the projects supported by USDA Rural Development.
Eligibility for funding through the USDA Rural Development programs is determined by, among other factors, a city's population size as established by the decennial census. In 2000, Congress enacted a grandfather clause that allowed any community that was deemed rural in 1990 to continue to be eligible for USDA Rural Development funding until the 2010 Census, as long as it had a population below 25,000. The grandfather clause expires today, October 1, 2012, but USDA issued a notice instructing all local, state, and national Rural Development staff to continue using the current definition until March 27, 2013, and to postpone implementation of the new 2010 Census data until that time. USDA's decision, in effect, extends the grandfather clause, however, Congressional action is required to permanently change it.