During a conference call with the media Monday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack focused on the impact the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will have on rural Americans and specifically what will happen during the next few weeks.
"The Congress and the President encouraged the USDA to be actively involved in the reinvestment and recovery effort by allocating $28 billion to the department," Vilsack said. "The lion's share of that money, $20 billion, has been allocated for the SNAP program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which impacts one out of every ten Americans, and in rural America roughly 7 million people."
Vilsack announced the release of the first installment of that $20 billion. States will be receiving about $145 million dollars this week to increase the monthly benefit of SNAP recipients.
"This $145 million will generate $261 million of economic activity in the communities where it will be dispersed," Vilsack said. "For every $5 that is spent in this program, $9.20 of economic activity occurs."
Vilsack also announced that coupled with the SNAP funds, $25 million will be sent to emergency food assistance programs and food banks across the United States to help with administrative expenses to employee people in the food banks to make sure food is available to those in need.
Those funds according to Vilsack represent the recovery portion of the act. On the reinvestment side, he announced that $400 million in grants and $140 million in loans will be released for the refurbishing and rebuilding of rural water and wastewater facilities. Over 400 projects in 47 states will be funded.
"These resources will begin generating jobs at the rate of 23 jobs for every million dollars invested," Vilsack said. "So today's announcement will lead to a little over 13,000 jobs being created in rural America. When the project is all completed and finished we anticipate that as many as 30,000 to 40,000 additional workers will be employed building and maintaining them."
Approximately $145 million will also be released for direct farm loans.
"These will go to a little over 2,000 operators throughout the country and allow them to put in their crop and pay the bills for spring planting," Vilsack said. "About 50% of these loans will go to beginner farmers; another 10% will go to socially disadvantaged farmers."
Also announced was $98 million allocated to the Forest Service to improve infrastructure and better maintain forests and the beginnings of an effort to assist in the expansion of rural broadband access.
"So the bottom line is that the announcements today impact and affect close to 20,000 jobs in rural America," Vilsack said. "It will provide some assistance and relief to farm families who struggle to put a crop in the ground, and homeowners who want to live in a comfortable and decent home, as well as providing some food assistance that will help farmers throughout the country as we buy down surplus crops and prices begin to moderate."