Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding on Thursday for rural water projects to create jobs and improve rural water and wastewater systems in 16 states.
In a press call following the announcement, Vilsack said the grants and loans were part of an effort to ensure critical infrastructure advancements that accelerate job growth in small communities.
"There's nothing more important in terms of critical infrastructure than the water and sewer resources of a community," Vilsack said. "It's one of the reasons why it makes up an integral part of our Rural Development programs at USDA."
Vilsack said the funding would go to communities with populations of 10,000 or fewer.
"These improvements to rural water infrastructure will provide reliable access to clean water, improving public health while creating jobs that strengthen rural economies." Vilsack added.
The $54 million in loans and $19 million in grants are provided by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service. RUS funding provides thousands of new connections to water and wastewater facilities to improve water quality, increase the efficiency of water use, and reduce usage.
For example, the city of Rhodes, Iowa, has been selected to receive loan and grant funds to rehabilitate the sewage collection system and lagoon for the city. In rural Virginia, the town of Kenbridge was selected to receive a loan and grant to upgrade old sewer lines and pump stations. The current wastewater system allows untreated sewage run off resulting in hazards to human health. The sewer system serves approximately 440 residential and 90 commercial users.
Vilsack said both the RUS program and the USDA Intermediary Relending Program, which released funding Wednesday, are the result of farm bill funding, and commented on his hope for a new farm bill.
"It continues to be important that the U.S. Congress and specifically the House of Representatives continues to focus on trying to get a Food, Farm and Jobs bill passed before September 30th and the expiration of the current 2008 bill," Vilsack said.
Communities in the following states were selected for funding: Arkansas, California, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virginia., and West Virginia.
Funding is contingent on recipients meeting the terms of the loan and grant agreements. For a complete list of projects funded, click here. For more information on the Water and Environment Program, click here.
For additional information on RD projects, please visit the Rural Development Website.