Nearly 60 million Americans live in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Rural Development mission area, provides financial resources and support for rural communities, residents and businesses.
Affordable and Safe Housing
One of the three divisions of Rural Development, the Housing and Community Facilities Program, invests in providing safe, clean and modest living for those who live outside our urban centers. Whether it's through a loan or loan guarantee to purchase a home; loans and grants to provide necessary repairs; or even rental assistance and financing to build affordable apartment complexes for families or seniors - the housing program ensures that housing is available and affordable in rural communities. Since 2009, we've helped more than 625,000 rural families in more than 21,000 communities buy, repair or refinance a home, and provided funding for more than 1,000 housing developments.
Communities also need facilities that benefit the population. Whether it's a fire station or a food bank, a senior center, hospital or city hall, the Community Facilities loan and grant program can be a financial partner to help provide essential community services. Since 2009, Rural Development has financed nearly 8,000 community facilities projects. Among these projects are more than 900 education facilities, 475 libraries, more than 1,000 health care facilities, and more than 3,400 public safety facilities.
Through our Business and Cooperatives Program, rural small businesses are given the financial tools to develop and succeed. We've helped save or create more than 375,000 rural jobs since 2009 and provided assistance to nearly 75,000 rural businesses and entrepreneurs. Our Rural Energy for America Program has helped generate an estimated 9.8 million megawatt hours of energy.
Many rural areas suffer from persistent poverty, and Rural Development has made a concerted effort to focus staff resources in 700 persistent poverty counties across the nation to promote economic development through our Strike Force Initiative. We are also working on regional community development strategies, providing resources and facilitating cooperation between federal, state and private agencies to leverage economic investment in rural areas.
Our Rural Utilities Service provides critical infrastructure investments to help rural communities thrive. Whether it's water or wastewater, or broadband and telecommunications connectivity, or rural electrification, we help our rural communities build the foundation for long-term growth. Since 2009 we've invested in new and improved broadband service to nearly seven million rural residents, 364,000 rural businesses, and 32,000 community facilities, creating or saving more than 25,000 jobs in the process. Our water and environmental investments have helped safeguard the health of more 20 million rural residents through more than 6,700 water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
We have helped improve and modernize rural electric infrastructure for more than 25 million rural residents and businesses with funding for more than 91,000 miles of electric transmission lines. We've also invested in renewable energy, smart grid technology and air quality improvement technology. Rural Development has supported more than 5,500 distance learning and telemedicine projects, improving the availability and quality of health care and education in rural America.
When we say that USDA is 'Committed to the Future of Rural Communities', we mean it. Rural Development helps bring the resources to the table so rural communities can truly build themselves from the ground up.