Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter (Summer 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.

Oregon Welcomes Administrator for Rural Business-Cooperative Service

Dr. Karama Neal, Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Karama Neal as the new Administrator for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

Prior to joining USDA, Dr. Neal served as president of Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a nonprofit community development loan fund and financial development organization promoting economic mobility in rural Arkansas and Mississippi. During her twelve years at Southern, Dr. Neal led their small business, consumer, and other development lending; consumer- and savings-focused public policy work; and a variety of financial development services to help low- and moderate-income families and communities build wealth.

For six years, Dr. Neal served on the board of the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Previously, she had a career in bioscience and worked for a period in biofuels informatics with a focus on feedstocks and balancing food and fuel priorities.

After completing her undergraduate degree in biology at Swarthmore College, Dr. Neal earned a master’s in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University Chicago and a doctorate in genetics from Emory University. She also completed executive education in impact investing at the University of Oxford Said School of Business.

Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence in Rural Areas

We can do this: thank you for advocating for and informing your rural community

As a trusted member of your rural community, you’re in an important position to share crucial COVID-19 information and help rural residents protect themselves and their communities.

The White House recently published the Rural Community Toolkit to help increase confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines while reinforcing basic prevention measures in rural communities.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and here now. Strong confidence in the vaccines within our local communities will lead to more people getting vaccinated, which in turn will lead to fewer COVID-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.

This toolkit features materials tailored to rural communities that you can use to educate rural residents about the vaccines. This material is intended for all organizations that communicate directly with rural audiences. Visit the User Guide for tips on how to use this information in your community. To find additional resources and learn more about current efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, visit wecandothis.hhs.gov.

New Program Offers Grants to Improve the Rural Economy

Downtown Hood River

Earlier this month, USDA Rural Development launched a new grant program to improve rural economic development by helping rural communities create high-wage jobs and accelerate the formation of businesses.

The Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Program can help economically-distressed rural communities identify and maximize local assets, support workforce development, spur job creation, and connect to regional networks and industry clusters. This program encourages a regional, innovation-driven approach to economic development.

Up to $10 million is available nationwide this year, and applications are being accepted through August 2, 2021. Consortiums of state and local government entities, institutions of higher education, tribal entities, nonprofits, investors, industry groups, and other public and private entities in rural areas are eligible to apply for individual grants of $500,000 to $2 million.

The funds may be used to form job accelerator partnerships and create high-wage jobs, start or expand businesses, and support economic growth in rural areas of the region. The grants may also be used to establish and operate innovation centers and partnership that, for example, integrate rural businesses into new supply chains, provide workforce training, or identify community assets.

This program was established through a final rule published on June 15. While it is effective immediately to allow for the prompt implementation of the program, the public is invited to submit comments on any aspect of the final rule through August 16, 2021.

Learn more online…

Resource Guide Offers Tools to Help Rural Workforce Build Back Better

Two men talking inside a warehouse

The rural workforce is essential for the success of the U.S. economy, and USDA Rural Development is committed to helping rural communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better. We recently published a resource guide to help rural community leaders start and expand employment opportunities and locate resources to train, recruit, and create a sustainable rural workforce.

The resource guide outlines programs and services available at USDA and other Federal agencies to support workforce development in rural communities. It can help community leaders and other local entities more easily identify resources to create jobs, train talent, expand educational opportunities, and provide technical assistance.

The guide also features examples of how customers have used USDA programs to support workforce development, with recommendations on how rural leaders can replicate this assistance in their communities.

You can find additional resources to support rural workforce development at www.rd.usda.gov/rwin.

Recognizing USDA’s Top Partners in Mortgage Lending

The Weise family purchased their rural Oregon home with the help of USDA

Throughout rural Oregon last year, 2,074 rural residents were able to buy a home with the help of USDA’s Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. By guaranteeing $512 million in private sector mortgage loans in Oregon, USDA helped reduce the risk for private lenders so they could make additional financing available for low-income families.

This program would not be possible without our lending partners. During National Homeownership Month, we are pleased to recognize our top three lending partners in Oregon and their work to support rural homeownership in 2020. These three lenders helped nearly 450 rural families and individuals buy homes in the state last year in partnership with USDA:

  • Guild Mortgage Company, which partnered with USDA to help 188 rural residents buy homes in rural Oregon last year;
  • Caliber Home Loans, which partnered with USDA to help 137 families and individuals buy rural Oregon homes last year; and
  • Umpqua Bank, which partnered with USDA to help 121 rural residents buy homes in rural Oregon last year.

USDA is a proud partner to all lenders who work with the agency to support rural homeownership. Over the last 30 years, USDA has worked with nearly 4,000 private lenders nationwide to ensure the dream of homeownership is accessible to rural Americans across the country. These partnerships have helped nearly 2 million families and individuals finance homes in rural areas since the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program was created in 1991.

Hermiston Rebuilds Playground Destroyed in Fire with USDA Assistance

Kids at a playground

In May 2019, a fire destroyed half of a popular children's play area at Hermiston's Butte Park.

The Umatilla Electric Cooperative used a USDA grant to help rebuild Funland Playground using modern, non-combustible, and vandalism-resistant materials to improve the safety and longevity of the new playground. The grant was awarded through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program, which provides grants and zero-interest loans to rural utilities that they in turn pass through to local businesses, nonprofits, or public bodies for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas.

Umatilla Electric Cooperative used the grant to make a zero-interest $250,000 loan to help finance the repairs. When repaid, the money will be added to a revolving loan fund operated by the cooperative to support local community facility projects. The local community donated $496,000 toward the remaining costs of the project. Additional funding was provided by Hermiston, and the Umatilla Electric Cooperative also provided assistance with the construction.

This project will help retain three park operations and maintenance positions with the city. An additional position will be created to provide increased security and maintenance at Butte Park. Overall, the restoration of this community playground will improve the quality of life for residents of this rural community of 17,423 people. Learn more online…

Rural Co-op Shines a Light on the Benefits of Solar Energy

The Astoria Co-op installed solar panels on its roof with the help of a USDA grant

Sustainability has been a fundamental tenant of the food cooperative movement since it began, and not only in terms of selling organic, sustainably-harvested food. Co-ops around the country are also turning to renewable energy. For the Astoria Co-op on the Oregon coast, that meant finding a way to offset the energy required to keep its products refrigerated. When the co-op began renovating its facility, it presented the perfect opportunity to install solar panels, but the cost exceed its budget.

The nonprofit Spark Northwest referred the co-op to USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program. It was awarded a nearly $50,000 grant, enabling the co-op to install a 60-kilowatt solar array on its roof.

While people may not associate solar energy with Oregon’s coast, known for its overcast skies and rainfall, the co-op’s solar panels generate energy from solar irradiance, even on cloudy days. Overall, they are expected to generate 69,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year, enough to power the equivalent of six homes. It will replace about 25 percent of the co-op’s energy use with renewable electricity and help reduce its utility bill.

Construction was completed as pandemic restrictions began to ease and more people returned to shopping in person. “It’s a bright story in a dark time,” said Zetty Nemlowill, Marketing Director. “This solar project helps us live our message and protect the planet. I personally am very proud of it and know many of our staff are as well.”

Read the full story online…

On Earth Day, USDA Invested Nearly $80,000 in Renewable Energy for Rural Oregon Businesses

Minam River Lodge installed solar panels with hep from a USDA grant

In honor of Earth Day, USDA Rural Development in April invested $79,500 in renewable energy for five rural Oregon businesses and farms, prioritizing climate-smart solutions and environmental stewardship.

For example, Minam River Lodge, an award-winning off-grid lodge in the heart of Oregon's largest wilderness area in northeast Oregon, received a $16,662 grant to expand its renewable energy system. With the installation of additional solar panels, this lodge in the Eagle Cap Wilderness is offsetting the diesel generator it previously used for energy, saving not only the cost of the fuel but also eliminating the cost and carbon footprint of flying the fuel, six drums at a time, to this remote location that is not accessible by road. The solar array will reduce the energy costs of this unique wilderness lodge by $16,321 per year, savings it can invest back into the business.

In all, these investments will replace 239,169 kilowatt-hours per year of energy with renewable electricity across five rural Oregon businesses, the equivalent of powering 23 typical U.S. homes. Learn more…

Dayville Community Hall Renovation Begins

Historic photos of the Dayville community hall

The rural town of Dayville in central Oregon recently began renovating its historic community hall.

Built in 1920, the hall has been deemed a historic site by the State Historic Preservation Office. However, both the roof and a 1950s-era addition with a kitchen and restrooms are in need of repairs. Additionally, the building is not insulated, and both the HVAC and electrical systems are outdated.

The city is using nearly $358,800 in grants provided through USDA’s Community Facilities Program to make structural repairs to the Dayville community hall. The HVAC and electrical systems are being replaced. Insulation and a new roof are being installed. The kitchen and restrooms are being replaced. Finally, the entire facility, including a resurfaced parking lot, are being brought into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards. All the updates are being made in compliance with State Historic Preservation Office requirements for historic sites.

This renovation will ensure that this vital facility at the heart of a small, rural town of 149 people continues to provide space for community gatherings and activities for years to come.

Inside This Edition

Open Application Windows

High Energy Cost Grant Program
Deadline: July 6, 2021

Most state and local government entities, federally-recognized tribes and tribal entities, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses can apply for grants to offset high energy costs in rural areas. Learn more…

Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program for National Scenic Areas along Waterways Impacted by Wildfires
Deadline: July 6, 2021

State and local government entities, nonprofits, and federally-recognized tribes can apply for grants to support economic development and create jobs in National Scenic Areas located along waterways that have been devastated by wildfires. Learn more…

Water and Wastewater Revolving Loan Program
Deadline: July 16, 2021

State and local government entities and private nonprofits can apply for grants to help very small, rural communities expand or improve water or waste disposal systems. Learn more…

Rural Decentralized Water Systems Grant Program
Deadline: July 19, 2021

Nonprofits and tribal lending institutions may apply for grants to create loan funds to help rural homeowners finance household water and septic systems. Learn more…

Housing Preservation Grant Program
Deadline: July 19, 2021

State and local government entities, nonprofits and faith-based organizations, and federally-recognized tribes can apply for grants to support housing repairs for low-income rural homeowners. Learn more…

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge
Deadline: July 26, 2021

Public and private groups, organizations, and institutions with demonstrated experience can apply for cooperative agreement grants to support planning, training, and technical assistance to help rural communities foster placemaking activities. Learn more…

Rural Innovation Stronger Economy Program
Deadline: August 2, 2021

Consortiums of state and local government entities, institutions of higher education, tribal entities, nonprofits, investors, industry groups, and other public and private entities in rural areas can apply for grants to help economically-distressed rural communities improve economic development by creating high-wage jobs and accelerating the formation of businesses. Learn more..

Socially-Disadvantaged Group Grant Program
Deadline: August 9, 2021

Cooperatives, groups of cooperatives, and cooperative development centers can apply for grants to help provide technical assistance and training to agricultural producers and rural business owners that are part of socially-disadvantaged groups whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice. Learn more…

Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program
Deadline: August 10, 2021

Nonprofits and institutions of higher education can apply for grants to help start, expand, or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses in rural areas. 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…

Farm Labor Housing Program
Deadline: November 1, 2021 (round 2)

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…

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 for American Program (REAP) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Loan Guarantee Program
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

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