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USDA Awards Grants to Help Rural Communities Create Jobs and Strengthen Economic Development Capacity

KINGSPORT, Tenn., April 15, 2015 – Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah today announced the selection of 31 community-based organizations in 17 states and the District of Columbia for grants to help small rural communities create jobs and boost economic development. The grants are being made available through USDA Rural Development's Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program.

"These grants bring increased economic opportunities to rural residents and communities by strengthening the capacity of the regional organizations that serve them," Mensah said during a visit today to Kingsport, Tenn. "They help organizations that are experienced in economic development create more job opportunities for rural residents. RCDI grants are an important part of USDA's ongoing efforts to address rural poverty. They help boost growth in our most economically vulnerable rural communities, including towns in Appalachia and Native American reservations."

Mensah is in Kingsport today to participate on a panel at the Appalachia Funders Network conference. Several organizations represented at the conference are among those selected for RCDI grants. Today's announcement demonstrates the importance of philanthropy and public-private partnerships. Three of the organizations selected for grants received their matching funds from foundations and/or charitable donors.

Here in Tennessee, the Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union, based in Gray, has been selected for a $125,000 grant to help low-income rural residents build their financial literacy, learn to prepare income tax returns, and improve their capacity to plan and conduct economic development activities. In addition to attending the Appalachia Funders Network conference, Mensah also toured Rural Development investments in Tennessee.

Rural Community Development Initiative grants support rural housing, community facilities and economic development projects. Funds may be used to develop child care facilities; provide education, technical assistance and training; conduct strategic planning, and conduct other projects that help local communities develop their capacity. Eligible grant recipients are non-profit housing and community development organizations.

The Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky has been selected for a $250,000 grant to provide technical assistance and training for community and economic development programs in 43 impoverished counties in southeastern Kentucky. Kentucky's Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) is receiving a $250,000 technical assistance grant to help develop food systems for farmers, food banks and other groups in rural, low-income communities in central Appalachia. MACED is receiving matching funds from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and other organizations.

These RCDI grants are part of USDA's efforts to strengthen rural economies. They also support the Obama Administration's POWER+ initiative. POWER+, which stands for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization, is a coordinated effort among multiple federal agencies, including USDA, to invest in coal communities, workers and technology. POWER+'s goal is to target federal economic and workforce development programs and resources to help communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector.

In Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is receiving a $250,000 grant to provide economic development and training to Tribal members living on the reservation. Walking Shield, Inc., in Lake Forest, Calif., is receiving $250,000 to help four Native American recipients with community development, healthcare, infrastructure and education programs. In Missouri, the Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission is receiving a $155,000 grant to support economic development in seven rural, low-income communities.

USDA is awarding $6.3 million in grants for 31 projects in today's announcement. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant agreements. View the list of recipients.

Seven states, including Tennessee, receiving support through this announcement are part of USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative, which coordinates USDA assistance in the Nation's most economically challenged rural areas. Through StrikeForce, USDA works with community partners to feed kids, assist farmers, secure safe homes, conserve natural resources and create jobs. USDA StrikeForce teams are working with more than 500 community partners to address rural poverty in more than 800 counties in 21 states and Puerto Rico.

President Obama's historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.


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