WASHINGTON, June 13, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the implementation of measures that will make it easier for individuals living in Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) to obtain USDA funding to improve basic services, including water and sewer systems, broadband and electric infrastructure.
"These measures are a crucial step for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to build modern utility infrastructure, create jobs and improve their quality of life," Vilsack said. "The changes will put resources where they are most needed and will give USDA Rural Development added flexibility that will help tribes located in Trust Areas."
A Substantially Underserved Trust Area is any land that: (1) is held in trust by the United States for Native Americans; (2) is subject to restrictions on alienation imposed by the United States on Indian lands (including Native Hawaiian homelands); (3) is owned by a Regional Corporation or a Village Corporation as defined in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act; or (4) is on any island in the Pacific Ocean if such land is communally-owned land by cultural tradition.
The changes, which apply to the Rural Utilities Service program area (RUS) give the Secretary of Agriculture authority to:
- Make loans and issue loan guarantees with interest rates as low as 2 percent and with extended repayment terms;
- Waive certain matching fund or credit support requirements for loans and grants. This will facilitate infrastructure construction, acquisition or improvements;
- Give highest priority to designated projects on Substantially Underserved Trust Areas.
The enhancements are being implemented through a final regulation published on page 35245 of the June 13, 2012 Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-06-13/pdf/2012-14255.pdf
USDA Rural Development conducted numerous government-to-government Tribal consultations and meetings with Native communities in developing the final rule. RUS will make annual reports to Congress on the progress of the initiative and recommendations for additional regulatory or legislative changes to improve services to Substantially Underserved Trust Areas. The SUTA initiative is authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses and entrepreneurs that are creating job opportunities and for people who want to live, work, and raise their families in rural communities.
Through its Rural Development mission area USDA, administers and manages housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers, and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay).