We're trying something a little different this month. Instead of reading my monthly message, you can watch it.
Adam Czech had the camera rolling and we spent about five minutes talking about USDA's housing programs and why investing in housing is important to rural Minnesota.
You can view the discussion here.
This is our first time trying something like this, and we no doubt have a few bugs to work out, but it's something I'd like to do on a regular basis.
Let us know
what you think and if you have any specific topics you would like us to cover.
USDA Rural Development has several programs that can help long-term recovery efforts in communities impacted by recent flooding in Duluth and the surrounding region.
to learn more, or contact our offices
in Virginia or Baxter. Staff in the region have been working throughout the week to asses damage to Rural Development projects and make sure all communities in the flooded region are aware of Rural Development programs.
For immediate assistance and up-to-date flood recover information, go here.
A unique partnership between USDA Rural Development and Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County (HFHDC) has helped make Cassandra Braford a proud new homeowner.
Braford, a waitress at a local restaurant, recently moved into her home in Alexandria, Minn., with her children, Ramsey and Riyada, and her mother, Jean. The home was financed through USDA Rural Development’s direct home loan program. Braford built her home in partnership with HFHDC.
“Throughout this process, I have become more confident in my abilities and have felt empowered to continue growing and to make a better future for my family,” said Braford, who showed off her new home during a June Homeownership Month event last week. “I couldn’t be more thankful to USDA, to Habitat and everyone else who helped along the way.”
The partnership between USDA and Habitat leverages assets from both organizations to help more qualified individuals and families achieve homeownership in rural Minnesota.
“Any time we have the opportunity to leverage resources to make an even greater impact, we should do so,” said Colleen Landkamer, USDA Rural Development State Director. “Cassandra and her family have worked hard to become homeowners. I’m proud of her achievement and proud that USDA
was able to partner with Habitat to make it happen.”
USDA and Habitat had some additional help in building Cassandra’s home. First-year construction students at Alexandria Community & Technical College played a major role in the home’s construction, gaining valuable educational experience and performing a needed community service.
Since 2009, Rural Development has helped over 800 individuals and families in rural Minnesota become homeowners through its direct home loan program. Since 1997, Habitat for Humanity has built or renovated 31 homes for 126 people in the Alexandria region.
Cassandra has put in over 200 hours of sweat equity helping build other Habitat Homes in the area. She’s seen firsthand what partnership and working together can do for her own family and her community.
“I was ready for this,” she said. “I could not be happier right now.”
*Pictured above is Cassandra (right) with Ramsey and Riyada. On the left is Allan Cowles, a specialist in Rural Development's Alexandria office that worked with Cassandra.*
June is Homeownership Month and USDA Rural Development has funds remaining to help very-low and low-income rural Minnesotans achieve homeownership. Funding also remains to help existing homeowners make essential home repairs.
So far in fiscal year 2012, we have helped 83 individuals and families become homeowners in rural Minnesota through our direct loan program. We've financed essential repairs on 65 homes through our repair loan and grant program.
Funds remain in both programs for the remainder of fiscal year 2012 and we want to make sure as much of that funding as possible is invested in rural Minnesota.
That's why we're asking you, our valued partners and stakeholders, to help us spread the word about these opportunities as summer kicks into gear.
Getting more information on both the home loan and home repair programs is easy. Potential applicants can be referred to:
-- An area Rural Development office. We have dedicated teams of local specialists that work one-on-one with potential applicants to guide them through the process.
-- Our website. We have information on the programs and frequently asked questions.
-- A brochure. We have brochures that go in-depth about the home loan and home repair programs.
Remember, in order to qualify for either program, applicants must live in a rural community of 20,000 people or fewer and meet income and credit guidelines. Check out this eligibility map to help you determine eligibility.
Since 2009, we've helped over 800 individuals and families in rural Minnesota achieve homeownership through our direct home loan program. We've helped over 750 existing homeowners make essential home repairs to remain in their homes.
We're proud of this achievement and want to build on that success this summer. Please help spread the word about the direct program so we can help even more rural Minnesotans reach the American Dream of homeownership.
Deadlines for both programs is Aug. 6, 2012. Contact a Rural Development specialist
if you have further questions.
The RCDG program offers grants up to $175,000 to nonprofits and institutions of higher education to pay for up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing and operating rural cooperative development centers. Recipients must match 25 percent of the award amount and the grant period should begin no earlier than Oct. 1, 2012, and no later than Jan. 1, 2013.
The RBOG program provides training and technical assistance grants for business development, entrepreneurship training, planning and economic development activities. Grants are awarded to rural public bodies, nonprofits, Native America tribes and rural cooperatives.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested over $130 million in 120 projects through its community facilities
program. These investments have served about one million rural Minnesotans.
The community facilities program finances the construction or renovation of essential buildings like hospitals, nursing homes, fire halls, food shelves, libraries, city halls and non-profit buildings.
It also finances emergency response vehicles and equipment like fire trucks, police equipment, storm warning sirens and utility vehicles.
The program is available in rural communities of 20,000 or fewer in population.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently released a report
highlighting the impact the community facilities program has had in rural America.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced
the implementation of measures that will make it easier for individuals living in Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) to obtain USDA funding to improve basic services, including water and sewer systems, broadband and electric infrastructure.
A Substantially Underserved Trust Area is any land that: (1) is held in trust by the United States for Native Americans; (2) is subject to restrictions on alienation imposed by the United States on Indian lands (including Native Hawaiian homelands); (3) is owned by a Regional Corporation or a Village Corporation as defined in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act; or (4) is on any island in the Pacific Ocean if such land is communally-owned land by cultural tradition.
The changes, which apply to Rural Development's utilities program area gives the Secretary of Agriculture authority to:
- Make loans and issue loan guarantees with interest rates as low as 2 percent and with extended repayment terms;
- Waive certain matching fund or credit support requirements for loans and grants. This will facilitate infrastructure construction, acquisition or improvements;
- Give highest priority to designated projects on Substantially Underserved Trust Areas.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack recently announced funding for 450 projects nationwide to install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements on rural small businesses and farms.