Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications for grants that will be awarded to organizations to help rural businesses create jobs and spur economic development. USDA is making $5.6 million available through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI), a program that generates economic activity in rural areas.
"This funding will help local and regional organizations as they assist small and emerging businesses," Vilsack said. "The Obama Administration recognizes small businesses as the engines of job creation and essential to strengthening our national economy."
Strengthening the rural economy remains a main focus of USDA, despite budget uncertainties. Qualified intermediary organizations receiving the grants will provide financial and technical assistance to recipients to develop their capacity to undertake housing, community facilities, or community and economic development projects. Recipients will be non-profit organizations, low income rural communities, or federally recognized tribes. Intermediary organizations must provide matching funds at least equal to the RCDI grant. Funds are not directly provided to business recipients by USDA under the program.
The deadline for submitting RCDI applications is November 12, 2013. Applications must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development state office where the applicant's headquarters are located. A list of these offices is available on the USDA Rural Development website. For more information, see the August 14, 2013 Federal Register at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-08-14/pdf/2013-19773.pdf.
RCDI brings economic opportunity to rural areas. For example, in 2012, NC REAL Enterprises in North Carolina, received a grant for its "Growing Small Businesses in Rural North Carolina" project. NC REAL Enterprises provides entrepreneurship education to a network of more than 300 certified facilitators (teachers and civic leaders) who, in turn, provide courses to individuals seeking to transition to an entrepreneurial small business career. Over a two-year period, RCDI funding is expected to provide business education and training to at least 2,000 individuals participating in this project; help start 40 new businesses; and improve the capacity of 20 existing businesses.
Secretary Vilsack said that today's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, Vilsack added, saying that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration - the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.