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TOP OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS HOLD 'RURAL TOUR' COMMUNITY FORUM IN NORTH CAROLINA
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Host Community Forum on the Importance of Education in Revitalizing and Rebuilding Rural America
HAMLET, N.C., August 17, 2009 - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan today visited North Carolina and held a 'Rural Tour' community forum to discuss the importance of strengthening education in communities throughout the country to revitalize rural America. The cabinet secretaries will also listen to local residents talk about how the federal government can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This event follows the launch of the Obama Administration's 'Rural Tour' in June.
"To overcome challenges and be successful in a new, 21st century economy, President Obama has asked that we reach out to people in rural communities across the country to listen, learn and facilitate problem-solving," said Vilsack. "It is imperative that schools are equipping students with the skills they need for the future, and this forum will help us to hear thoughts, concerns and stories in North Carolina to collect ideas about how our government can better serve teachers and students in these communities."
"We know the best ideas always come from the local level and we must take advantage of this historic opportunity to use unprecedented resources to help all communities," said Duncan. "We have way too many children dropping out of school and not enough students completing college. At the same time, we have more good examples of what works than ever before and we need to replicate those good examples at the local level and take them to scale. If we can do this, we can change the lives of children forever."
Secretary Vilsack also highlighted the USDA's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are underway in North Carolina and across the country, including the following:
- Through USDA's Rural Development, more than $19 million will be made available for 40 community facilities projects. Community Facility Grants will allow towns across North Carolina to purchase critical emergency service vehicles and equipment, build Emergency Operations Centers and community centers.
- USDA's Farm Service Agency is providing $5.34 million through 74 Direct Operating Farm Loans. These loans help farms purchase items such as livestock, farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel, farm chemicals, insurance, and other operating expenses.
- USDA's Forest Service is providing $13.2 million for 15 projects through the Forest Service Capital Improvement and Maintenance program. This work will reduce sedimentation in streams, restore water quality and fish habitat and provide safe public transportation.
- USDA's Forest Service is providing $6.7 million for 5 projects through the Forest Service Wildland Fire Management program. This work will aid wildfire mitigation through fuel reduction and forest maintenance.
- USDA's Rural Development has helped guarantee 2,945 loans worth nearly $390 million in the state of North Carolina through the Single Family Housing Loan program. These loans help residents and producers to have access to the capital they need to keep rural communities strong.
- USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced more than $5.3 million in funding for watershed operations and $741,000 for 3 floodplain easement projects.
- Through USDA, the Recovery Act provided for an estimated increase of $608 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in North Carolina. Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. The State of North Carolina also received $4.6 million in State Administrative Funds.
- USDA is also helping low-income North Carolina residents to receive healthy, nutritious meals through $3.9 million in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Kids in North Carolina also will benefit from $3.3 million through the National School Lunch Program.
- USDA's Rural Development is providing $5.8 million for North Lenoir Water Corporation as they construct a Water and Waste Treatment project.
- USDA's Rural Development has issued three Rural Business and Enterprise Grants for a total of $225,000 to the Henderson-Vance Downtown Improvement Project and the City of Reidsville Downtown Revitalization. This funding will be used as a revolving loan to revitalize downtown business and used to renovate the former Bank of Reidsville into commercial and retail space.
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