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USDA ANNOUNCES $770 MILLION FOR RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
Source: USDA news release

Edgecombe County, N.C. - During a visit to Edgecombe, N.C., a Rural Partners Network community, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden today announced that USDA is funding 216 projects in 45 states, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands to bring high-speed internet, clean water, state-of-the-art infrastructure and economic growth to rural communities as part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda.

The new projects, totaling $772.6 million in investments, will benefit more than 1 million people living in remote areas of the country by providing reliable high-speed internet access, clean, safe water and a range of support for rural families, agricultural producers and small businesses.

Secretary Vilsack and Neera Tanden announced the awards during the Rural Prosperity town hall at Edgecombe Community College as part of the Biden-Harris Administration's fourth Investing in America tour. Many of the projects announced today were made possible through historic investments from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Today's announcement comes just months after USDA announced a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to equip 10 telemedicine stations throughout Edgecombe County.

"President Biden's Investing in America agenda is transforming our country for the better - reaching communities in every corner of the United States, including those that have too often been left behind," Secretary Vilsack said. "The investments I'm announcing today will help us build our economy from the middle out and bottom up by bringing high-speed internet, clean water, modern infrastructure and good-paying jobs to communities in rural areas, in turn making it more possible for young people to build a good life in the communities they love, and for more Americans to find new opportunity in rural communities."

High-Speed Internet Awards

USDA is investing in $51.7 million to expand access to high-speed internet for people in rural areas across the country through the Reconnect Program and the Broadband Technical Assistance Program.

Under the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, USDA is providing $9.7 million to help 24 organizations deliver or receive technical assistance to expand high-speed internet access for people in rural and Tribal communities across 17 states. This funding will also develop and expand broadband cooperatives in rural areas.

This program is made possible by President Biden's historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $65 billion to expand reliable, affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.

Awards will benefit people living in Alaska, California, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

For example:

· In the Midwest, Merit Network Inc. is receiving $997,000 to develop a connectivity and digital equity strategy to promote the expansion of high-speed internet in eight communities across Muskegon, Roscommon, Van Buren, Ogemaw and Saginaw counties in Michigan.

· In the South, HarvestBeam Inc. is receiving a $199,000 award to promote the expansion of high-speed internet in 13 communities across Pitt, Lenoir, Craven, Greene, Beaufort, Washington and Jones counties in North Carolina.

USDA is also providing $42 million in grants through the Reconnect Program to bring high-speed internet to rural, remote and underserved communities in Florida.

For example:

The Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Inc. is receiving a $17.8 million ReConnect Program grant to benefit 19,000 people, 480 businesses, 650 farms and 42 educational facilities in Columbia, Hamilton and Suwannee counties.

· IBT Group USA LLC is receiving a $24.2 million ReConnect Program grant to benefit more than 8,600 people, 230 businesses, 11 farms and 34 educational facilities in DeSoto County. IBT Group USA LLC will also make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline Program and Affordable Connectivity Program.

Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA has invested $3.7 billion in 338 ReConnect projects, financed in part by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that will bring high-speed internet access to more than 485,000 people in the hardest to reach communities of rural America.

ReConnect Program Round 5

In addition to today's high-speed internet investments, Secretary Vilsack also announced that USDA will begin accepting applications on March 22, 2024 for its fifth round of funding for the ReConnect Program to connect millions of people in rural America to affordable high-speed internet.

In order to continue connecting rural families, business owners and agricultural producers to reliable, affordable high-speed internet, USDA is making several program improvements under Round 5. This will further increase the availability of funding in rural areas where residents and businesses lack access to affordable, high-speed internet.

For a full list of program improvements, and program and application requirements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect or see page 13036 of the Feb. 21, 2024, Federal Register.

Rural Partners Network Awards

USDA is funding a variety of projects in underserved communities participating in the Rural Partners Network (RPN), including some made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act. These investments will expand access to jobs, business opportunities, quality health care, clean water and renewable energy.

About $76.6 million of the funding announced today will support 32 projects in Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. These projects will benefit small towns and cities, family farms and small businesses in RPN communities and neighboring communities in Tennessee.

For example:

· In North Carolina, Northampton County will use a $5 million Community Facilities Grant to build a 15,000-square-foot addition to the courthouse to provide critical services to residents and businesses. The new facility will house offices for the county manager, taxes, register of deeds, finance, human resources and information technology.

· In Wayne County, West Virginia, Brunetti's Italian Bakery will use a $150,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant to buy and install a 167-kilowatt array that will save the business nearly $14,000 a year in energy costs.

Since RPN's launch in April 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration has provided approximately $2.6 billion to carry out a variety of economic development projects in RPN communities across 10 states and Puerto Rico. Federal agencies partnering with USDA have also provided more than $80 million to RPN communities during that same period.

Rural Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

Today, USDA is also awarding $644.2 million to help 158 rural utilities provide clean drinking water and sanitary wastewater systems for 913,000 people in rural areas. This funding builds on the $5.8 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for clean water from the Environmental Protection Agency that Vice President Harris announced yesterday in Pittsburgh.

The Department is making investments through the Solid Waste Management Grants Program to help organizations provide technical assistance and training for rural communities and utilities to improve solid waste facilities. The assistance helps communities protect their local watersheds and the health of people living in rural areas.

USDA is also financing projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to help state and local governments, private nonprofits and federally recognized Tribes build and improve rural wastewater systems. The funding enables rural communities to expand access to clean and reliable drinking water, sanitary waste disposal and stormwater drainage.

For example:

· In the Northeast, the town of Hancock, Maryland, will use funding to rehabilitate and upgrade its wastewater treatment system, protect the health of approximately 1,500 people and safeguard the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

· In the Midwest, Regional Water will use funding to protect the health of 521 rural residents by building 12.25 miles of rural potable water piping infrastructure to two housing developments under construction in rural Pottawattamie County, Iowa.

These water infrastructure projects will benefit families and businesses in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.


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