Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter (Spring 2021 Edition)

USDA Rural Development, Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter

Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of USDA Rural Development in Oregon. Here, you will find updates on funding opportunities and program activities through BusinessCooperativeEnergyElectricTelecommunicationsWater and EnvironmentalCommunity FacilitiesMulti-Family Housing, and Single Family Housing programs.

COVID-19 Relief Measures: Foreclosure and Eviction Moratoriums Extended

Rural Development COVID-19 Response

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development has extended its foreclosure and eviction moratorium for all Single Family Housing direct and guaranteed home loans through June 30, 2021, to help rural homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The moratorium prohibits:

  • The initiation of foreclosures or completion of foreclosures already in process, excluding on vacant and abandoned properties.
  • Evictions of homeowners from properties bought with a USDA direct or guaranteed home loan.

Mortgage holders who are experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic may also submit requests through June 30, 2021, for mortgage payment forbearance. Learn more…

Additionally, the temporary halt in residential evictions issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been extended through March 31, 2021. This moratorium allows Rural Development to extend relief to the tens-of-thousands of rural Americans nationwide who rely on USDA-supported multi-family housing.

The halt in evictions applies when the tenants certify that they meet the following criteria:

  • All adults in the household have attempted to obtain any available government assistance for rent;
  • The household meets annual income limits of $99,000 per individual or $198,000 per couple;
  • The household is unable to pay full rent due to a loss of household income or extraordinary medical expenses;
  • Timely partial payments have been attempted; and
  • Eviction would likely make the household members homeless or force them into an unsafe shared living arrangement.

Where state or local guidance is more restrictive, owners and agents of USDA-financed multi-family housing must closely follow the more restrictive local guidance. In Oregon, House Bill 4401 halts evictions through June 30, 2021; prohibits late fees; and establishes funds to help landlords whose tenants have been unable to pay rent, as well as to help tenants make their payments.

For more information on Rural Development's actions to support customers impacted by COVID-19, visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus.

Recovery Assistance Available for Rural Communities Affected by 2020 Wildfires

Smokey skies with a fire glow above Highway 22 during Oregon's 2020 wildfires

The wildfires that raged across Oregon in the fall of 2020 may be over, but the recovery process for many rural towns around the state will take time.

USDA Rural Development has more than 50 programs available to help rural and tribal communities rebuild or repair homes, businesses, and infrastructure from hospitals to broadband to water facilities after a natural disaster.

Visit us online to learn about the fire recovery assistance available through USDA Rural Development and to find a local contact who can help you start the application process.

USDA Invests $1 Million to Restore Potable Drinking Water to Detroit after Santiam Wildfire

Detroit suffered devastating damage during the 2020 Oregon wildfires

USDA Rural Development is investing $1 million to restore potable water to the rural town of Detroit after its treatment plant was destroyed in the Santiam Fire in the fall of 2020.

With a $1 million Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant from USDA, Detroit will build a temporary ultrafiltration packaged plant and renovate the reservoir to house it.

The project will enable this rural town of 202 people to begin rebuilding their community and recovering from the catastrophic wildfire while they identify a permanent solution for their drinking water needs. Learn more…

A New Start After Losing Her Home in the Wildfires

Rose Court Apartments was destroyed in the 2020 Oregon wildfires

Susan Smith has lived through a lot over the years: hurricanes, a serious medical condition, a global pandemic. She had heard about the fire burning in Ashland, just south of her subsidized apartment in the small town of Phoenix, but wildfires had never threatened her before. Then a police officer knocked on her door and told her to evacuate.

Susan had no time to pack. She was the last to leave Rose Court Apartments, which was originally built with financing from USDA Rural Development and received rental assistance for low-income tenants that could not otherwise afford rent.

She spent the night at the Jackson County Expo Center evacuation site. The next day, she received the news: her apartment complex had burned down.

Through its Multi-Family Housing programs, USDA Rural Development issued a Letter of Priority Entitlement (LOPE), giving those displaced by the wildfires priority for placement at other USDA-financed rental properties. A unit soon became available nearby at the Big Valley Jacksonville Apartments. Susan was offered the space.

The family of the outgoing tenant, who was moving to an assisted living facility, learned from the apartment manager that the unit would be given to a wildfire survivor who had lost everything she owned.

When Susan moved into her new home, she was shocked to find it fully furnished. The family of the outgoing tenant had not only left behind all his furniture, they had also thoroughly cleaned the unit and stocked it with newly purchased supplies, from bath soap to grocery staples.

“I am truly blessed to have someone think of me at the time of my greatest need,” said Susan, who is determined to pay forward this generous gift.

Oregon Welcomes Returning Secretary of Agriculture and New Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development

Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack

Thomas J. Vilsack was confirmed as the 32nd United States Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23 by the U.S. Senate.

He was nominated by President Joe Biden to return to a role where he served for eight years under President Barack Obama.

As the leader of USDA when he served as the 30th Secretary of Agriculture between 2009 and 2017, Vilsack worked hard to strengthen the American agricultural economy, build vibrant rural communities, and create new markets for innovation in rural America. He fought to put Americans back to work by investing in rural infrastructure, renewable energy, and large-scale conservation partnerships. Under his leadership, USDA supported America's farmers, ranchers, and growers who drove the rural economy forward, set records for U.S. agricultural exports, provided food assistance to millions of Americans, and helped provide a safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for the American people.

Prior to returning to USDA, he served as President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. He also served as a Strategic Advisor to Colorado State University’s food and water initiatives. Vilsack was the longest-serving member of President Obama’s original Cabinet. Prior to his appointment, he served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, served in the Iowa State Senate, and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

He received his bachelor's degree from Hamilton College and his law degree from Albany Law School in New York.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Vilsack was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. After graduating from law school, Vilsack moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, his wife Christie’s hometown, where he practiced law. The Vilsacks have two adult sons and two daughters-in-law. They have five grandchildren.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Justin Maxson

On Jan. 21, Justin Maxson was named USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Maxson served six years as CEO at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which works to support moving people and places out of poverty across the South. Justin and his team supported a unique private-public partnership with USDA, Bank of America, and seven foundations; developed a racial equity lens to inform their investments, and tripled their 2020 grant-making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previously, Maxson spent 13 years as President of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (now Mountain Association), a multi-strategy sustainable economic development organization and CDFI working in eastern Kentucky and central Appalachia. Programs he managed included small business development and entrepreneurial support solutions, energy efficiency and sustainable forestry strategies, and targeted research and policy efforts. In this role, he was fortunate to regularly work with the Kentucky Rural Development office.

Maxson was on the founding board of the Center for Rural Strategies. He was also a year-long fellow at the Sustainability Institute and the Rockwood Leadership Institute. He served on the Kentucky Climate Action Planning Committee and the planning committee for Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

He most recently served on Truist Bank’s Community Development Advisory board.  He has a master’s degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, both in Anthropology. He has two sons, one in college and one in high school.

Announcing the Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development in Oregon

Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development in Oregon, Jill Rees

 Rural Development is pleased to announce Jill Rees was selected on Jan. 21 to serve as the Acting State Director in Oregon.

Before being appointed to this role, Rees served as the Oregon Associate Enterprise Director, overseeing agency operations for Rural Development in the state.

Over her 20-year USDA career, Rees has served in the roles of Acting State Director, Assistant State Director, and Community and Economic Development Director for Rural Development. She also served as a Public Affairs Specialist for both Rural Development and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In these various capacities, she has worked for USDA in Champaign, Illinois; Riverside, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Washington, DC; and Portland, Oregon.

Rees has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a Professional Certificate in Tribal Relations and a certificate from the Executive Seminar Program in Natural Resources through Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government in Portland, Oregon. She also completed the three-year certificate program for Professional Community and Economic Developers through the Northwest Community Development Institute in Boise, Idaho, and the Natural Resources Leadership Development Institute through Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Rees, who has lived in Oregon with her husband for the past 15 years, hails from a rural area of north-central Illinois.

Record $542 Million Investment in Homeownership Provides Vital Support for Low-income Rural Oregonians

The Weise family purchased their first home with a USDA mortgage loan

As the rising cost of housing and limited inventory is making homeownership unattainable for many low-income families living in rural Oregon, USDA Rural Development invested a record $542.6 million in 2020 to help more than 2,225 rural Oregonians purchase, build, or repair their homes.

Through USDA's Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, Rural Development helped 2,074 rural Oregonians with limited income purchase a home. By guaranteeing $513 million in private sector mortgage loans, USDA helps to reduce the risk for private lenders so they can make additional financing available at reasonable rates and terms for low-income families.

The Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program made homeownership attainable for 117 rural residents that did not qualify for traditional bank loans by investing $28.9 million in loans that offered low interest rates and had no down payment requirement. 

Through the Single Family Housing Repair Program, Rural Development invested nearly $500,000 in loans and grants to enable seniors and very-low-income rural homeowners to complete critical repairs to their homes that they could not otherwise afford.

These investments represent the highest level of homeownership funding by USDA in Oregon in the last decade. Over the past 10 years, Rural Development has invested a total of $4.9 billion to help low-income rural Oregonians buy safe, affordable homes or mitigate health and safety hazards so they can remain in their homes. These investments help families build equity and improve their financial outlook for the long term.

Contacts Have Changed for USDA’s Multi-Family Housing Programs

An affordable apartment complex in McMinnville funded by USDA

On October 11, 2020, USDA Rural Development finalized the realignment of its Multi-Family Housing programs. As part of this transition, the Rural Development staff who had previously provided assistance on specific topics or supported individual properties has changed.

Contacts for Existing Properties

The existing portfolio of apartment complexes was redistributed to servicing specialists within the new Field Operations Division. If you are looking for the specialist for a specific property, you will find a complete and sortable list on our Multi-Family Housing datasets website. Simply select the "Property Assignments by Region" file under the third section to open an Excel spreadsheet listing contacts by property.

The Field Operations Division is responsible for maintaining local relationships through regionally-organized servicing teams. This division handles all day-to-day servicing of Multi-Family Housing properties to ensure that tenants have safe and affordable housing. We encourage our Multi-Family Housing program funding recipients and partners in Oregon to reach out to Western Region Director Becki Meyer, (360) 704-7702, to build upon existing partnerships and forge new ones.

Contacts for Funding Applications and Transactions in Process

If you need information on a loan transaction currently in process, or if you have questions about a new transaction, our new Production and Preservation Division now processes, underwrites, and closes all Multi-Family Housing direct, grant, preservation, and guaranteed loan transactions. Branch 2 of the Processing and Preservation Division serves Oregon. They can be reached by email at MFHprocessing2@usda.gov.

Funding is Available for Projects Supporting Regional Economic and Community Development

Downtown Hood River

USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for projects that prioritize strategic investments to grow the economy and build prosperity in rural communities.

Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) funding may be used to implement multi-jurisdictional or multi-sectoral strategic community investment plans.

Rural Development implements SECD by reserving funds from the appropriations for covered programs. In Fiscal Year 2021, this funding is available under the following programs:

To apply for SECD funding, applicants must meet all requirements and application deadlines for the program to which they are applying. In addition, applicants must submit Form RD 1980-88, "Strategic Economic and Community Development (Section 6401)."

This funding is awarded on a competitive basis. Consideration of proposed projects will be based on:

  • How well the project supports a multi-jurisdictional plan,
  • Whether the plain contains evidence of collaboration among multiple stakeholders,
  • Whether the project leverages applicable regional resources; and
  • Whether the plan includes clear objectives with measurable metrics.

Applicants are encouraged to contact their local Rural Development program staff to have their plans reviewed early in the process for feedback and possible modification prior to submission of the formal application. Learn more…

Expanding Access to High-speed Broadband in Rural Linn and Polk Counties with a $13.2 Million USDA Investment

Broadband cables

As we continue to rely on telehealth services, remote learning, and virtual business operations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for improved internet access in our rural communities has never been more apparent.

USDA Rural Development is investing $13.2 million through the ReConnect Program to expand broadband infrastructure in underserved areas of Linn and Polk counties.

Casco Communications dba Peak Internet will use a $6.6 million grant and a $6.6 million loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect a 10.6-square-mile area of rural Linn and Polk counties in western Oregon.

This expanded fiber optic network will connect 5,265 households; 31 businesses; 13 farms, and 2 public schools to high-speed broadband, improving the quality of life for those who live and work in these rural communities. Learn more…

Pacific City Completes Significant Wastewater Infrastructure Project

The renovated Pacific City Joint Water-Sanitary Authority wastewater treatment plant

Pacific City in northwest Oregon recently completed a $10.6 million upgrade of its wastewater treatment plant.

The plant operated by the Pacific City Joint Water-Sanitary Authority (PCJWSA) was constructed more than 40 years ago. Many components of the facility had exceeded their useful life. Additionally, while serving approximately 1,000 permanent residents and up to 5,000 seasonal visitors, the system’s capacity left little margin for error, resulting in several violations of the enhanced National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements. With the town’s population continuing to grow, the wastewater system required extensive upgrades to meet the needs of its current and future customers while also protecting the environment.

The water-sanitary authority was able to complete essential components of its initial project development, including an environmental review and preliminary engineering report, with a $30,000 grant provided through USDA's Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) Program.

With assistance from a Rural Development loan of $8.7 million and a grant of $1.9 million provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Program, PCJWSA converted its current system into a sequencing batch reactor.

This municipal infrastructure project has expanded the system’s capacity, setting the foundation to support future growth and a vibrant tourist economy in this rural community of 1,035 while also protecting the natural environment.

La Pine Health Clinic Purchases Permanent Home with $5.5 Million USDA Investment

A doctor examines a child

USDA Rural Development invested $5.5 million in the La Pine Community Health Center, a nonprofit that provides primary health care services to the rural town of La Pine, north to Sunriver, south to Crescent, and east to Christmas Valley.

The health center is located in a 19,558-square-foot building that was fully renovated in 2016. The facility meets the clinic's needs by providing offices, exam rooms, a lab, and a waiting area, with a parking lot located on the property for both customers and employees. The facility also includes space for two private businesses, a pharmacy and a physical therapy office, which sublet the space. However, the nonprofit did not own the facility and its lease costs were subject to change.

With the help of a $5.5 million loan provided through USDA's Community Facilities Program, the La Pine Community Health Center purchased the facility, stabilizing its financial obligations by locking in its real estate expenses and helping it plan for the future. This investment will ensure the more than 22,000 residents in the clinic's rural central Oregon service area continue to have access to quality, affordable health care for years to come. Learn more…

USDA Fuels Economic Recovery in Five Rural Oregon and Washington Counties

A business owner with the sign "We're Open - Support Local Businesses"

The nonprofit Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) is supporting the economic recovery in rural Oregon and Washington communities with the help of a $110,000 grant provided through USDA's Rural Community Development Initiative Program, as well as funding from the Ford Family Foundation and Pacific Power.

Rural Development Initiatives will use the grant to establish a program to build the capacity of community main street organizations and equip them to serve key functions in the local business support ecosystem. This technical assistance will give them greater resources and support, help them build more productive relationships among businesses, and assist communities with implementing economic vitality initiatives in their downtown areas.

The program will span multiple states, and the USDA funding will be used to enable five main street hubs based in Klamath, Malheur, Umatilla, and Union counties in Oregon, as well as Skamania County in Washington State, to provide technical assistance to multiple communities.

Overall, this project will help rural communities in Oregon, southern Washington, and southwestern Idaho increase economic prosperity and recover from the current economic crisis by supporting business retention and growth, increasing the diversity of businesses, and strengthening business clusters. Learn more…

Expanding Support for Small Businesses in Rural Oregon with $620,000 USDA Investment

A Latino-owned small business in the Columbia River Gorge that received technical assistance from The Next Door

Local municipalities, nonprofits, and tribes will provide expanded technical assistance and training to rural small businesses in 10 Oregon counties with the help of $620,000 in grants provided through USDA's Rural Business Development Grant Program.

The nonprofit The Next Door, Inc., for example, received a $35,980 grant to support Latino small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Mid-Columbia Gorge region. Through its Programa Promoviendo Prosperidad (Promoting Prosperity Program), the nonprofit will help Latinos build sustainable small businesses and increase their financial stability by providing technical assistance with business licenses, financial literacy, and access to capital. This project will help local businesses retain 140 jobs while creating an additional 11 jobs in the small, rural towns of the Columbia River Gorge.

In total, these investments will help to preserve 334 jobs while creating an additional 172 positions in rural communities around the state.

Applications for the Rural Business Development Grant Program are currently being accepted through March 31, 2021. Learn more…

USDA Invests $3.2 Million to Help Agricultural Producers Develop and Market New Products

Apples and apple cider

USDA Rural Development invested $3.2 million in 2020 to help 15 agricultural producers develop and market value-added products. By expanding their operations, these rural businesses will also create jobs and help to improve the local economy.

In southwest Oregon, Uproot Meats produces locally-sourced, ethically-raised pork and chicken. With a $250,000 grant, this woman-owned business will increase its production and implement a strategic marketing campaign to expand its customer base. By increasing its sales of sustainably farmed, nutrient-dense meat, the farm will also be able to create two additional jobs in this rural community.

The Tillamook County Creamery Association will use a $250,000 grant to expand its sales of "Tillamook" brand dairy products into the Singapore market. This farmer-owned cooperative will conduct a marketing campaign to increase sales through communication about the quality and heritage of its cheese and ice cream. By increasing its international sales, Tillamook will create additional jobs across the organization, including in Tillamook County.

An additional 13 agricultural producers in Oregon received USDA grants to develop and market a variety of value-added products.

The funding is being provide through USDA's Value Added Producer Grant Program, which is currently accepting applications for 2021. Up to $76 million is available nationwide. The deadline to apply is April 29 for online applications and May 4 for applications submitted to the state office. Learn more…

USDA Invites Partners to Join the Rural Workforce Innovation Network

People consulting inside a warehouse

USDA Rural Development is inviting new members to join a national network of public-private partners to help create and improve access to jobs in America's rural towns and communities.

The Rural Workforce Innovation Network (RWIN) was established in 2018 to create a forum for public and private partners to help increase access to workforce opportunities across rural America. The network includes government entities, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and private businesses actively engaged in improving workforce development in their local communities.

RWIN helps rural leaders:

  • Build partnerships;
  • Develop tools and resources to meet the needs of rural employers and employees; and
  • Share information on emerging trends, best practices, and workforce development resources.

To join, submit a membership form to USDA. Members may join the network on a continuous basis.

USDA is also inviting interested parties to attend a monthly series of public virtual workshops to create strategies to support rural workforce development. Workshop topics will focus on addressing workforce development needs using Rural Development programs, emerging industry trends, best practices, and leveraged community resources.

For questions about RWIN, please contact rd.innovation.rwin@usda.gov.

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Inside This Edition

Open Application Windows

Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) Program
Deadline: March 22, 2021 (online); March 29, 2021 (paper)

Public bodies, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations can apply for technical assistance grants to help nonprofits, federally-recognized tribes, and rural communities develop their capacity to undertake economic development projects. Learn more…

Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grants Program
Deadline: March 22, 2021 (online); March 29, 2021 (paper)

Public entities, private nonprofits, and federally-recognized tribes can apply for technical assistance grants to help rural communities expand their access to financial resources to support essential facilities. Learn more…

Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program
Deadline: March 31, 2021

Public bodies, government entities, federally-recognized tribes, and nonprofits can apply for grants to provide technical assistance and training leading to the development or expansion in rural areas of small and emerging private businesses. Learn more…

Rural Energy for American Program (REAP) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Loan Guarantees and Grants
Deadline: March 31, 2021

Agricultural producers and small, rural businesses can apply for grants and loan guarantees to help adopt renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Learn more…

Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program
Deadlines: March 31, 2021 (third quarter); June 30, 2021 (fourth quarter)

Rural utilities can apply for grants and zero-interest loans that they will in turn pass through to local businesses for projects that will retain or create employment opportunities in rural communities. Learn more…

Intermediary Relending Program
Deadline: March 31, 2021 (third quarter); June 30, 2021 (fourth quarter)

Nonprofits, cooperatives, federally-recognized tribes, and public agencies can apply for loans to establish revolving loan funds to support rural businesses and community development projects. Learn more…

Farm Labor Housing Program
Deadline: April 1, 2021 (round 1); November 1, 2021 (round 2); November 1, 2022 (round 3)

Farmers, associations of farmers, family farm cooperatives, associations of farmworkers and nonprofits, most state and local government entities, and federally-recognized tribes can apply for loans and grants to construct off-farm housing for domestic farm laborers. Learn more…

Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program
Deadline: April 29, 2021 (online); May 4, 2021 (paper)

Independent producers, agricultural operators, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures can apply for grants to develop new products and expanding marketing opportunities. Learn more…

Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program – CARES Act
Deadline: September 15, 2021, or until funds are expended

Lenders may receive a USDA guarantee on loans to rural businesses, including agricultural producers, to provide working capital to help them prevent, prepare for, or respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more…

Telecommunications Infrastructure Program
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

State and local government entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, corporations, and limited liability companies can apply for loans and loan guarantees to build, improve, or expand broadband or telephone infrastructure in rural areas with a population of 5,000 or less. Learn more…

Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP)
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

Qualified utilities and similar intermediaries can apply for loans to help rural families and small businesses make cost-saving energy efficiency improvements. Learn more…

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

Nonprofits, federally-recognized tribes, and institutions of higher education operating as Microenterprise Development Organizations can apply for loans to establish rural microloan revolving funds and grants to provide training and technical assistance to rural microenterprises and microentrepreneurs. Learn more…

Water and Waste Disposal Program
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

State and local government entities, private nonprofits, and federally-recognized tribes can apply for loans and grants to build or improve drinking water, waste disposal, or storm water drainage systems in rural areas. Learn more…

Community Facilities Program
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

Public bodies, community-based nonprofits, and federally-recognized tribes can apply for loans and grants to build or improve essential community facilities such as schools and hospitals in rural areas. Learn more…