The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week that it invested over $365 million in Vermont and New Hampshire communities in Federal Fiscal Year 2016 in housing, community and economic infrastructure through USDA Rural Development. The federal investment touched 465 communities, nearly every Vermont and New Hampshire town, and focused on increasing residents’ wellbeing by reducing poverty and investing in opportunity sectors including local food systems and renewable energy.
“These dollars translate to new opportunities for homeowners, communities, non-profit organizations and entrepreneurs,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Ted Brady. “Vermont and New Hampshire residents count on USDA Rural Development to be a partner in redeveloping their communities. We’re proud to help our rural communities seize opportunities – including investments in the local food sector and renewable energy – that help them grow stronger.”
USDA published its 2016 annual report, including a county by county list of projects in Vermont and New Hampshire. Brady said USDA Rural Development invested $149,566,057 in Vermont and $216,224,054 in New Hampshire over the past year. The Agency administers a wide range of programs that deliver support to rural communities in the form of loans, grants and guaranteed loans.
In 2016, Rural Development continued to invest in the bioeconomy of Vermont and New Hampshire – leveraging natural resources to produce renewable energy and forest-made products. A $2.5 million USDA Rural Energy for America Program loan guarantee, in partnership with Community National Bank, will enable Kingdom Pellets to build a wood pellet mill in Gilman, Vt. The plant will create 21 new local jobs, provide a market for low grade wood and produce a renewable source of heat for the projected equivalent of 6,818 homes. In 2016, USDA Rural Development invested $25,692,288 in business projects across Vermont and New Hampshire, creating or retaining 1,231 jobs.
USDA continued to be a leading source of housing assistance for more than 5,000 families last year. Senior residents of Chichester, Norman and Sharon Hansen, adapted their home so that they could safely age in place with the support of a USDA Rural Development home repair grant. The program offers low interest loans to very low income households and grants to eligible seniors, like the Hansen's, to make essential home repairs and efficiency upgrades. USDA Rural Development invested $252,987,012 in housing programs in 2016.
Towns and non-profit organizations used more than $87 million in USDA funding to build and provide essential community services in 2016, including assisted living, broadband, water and wastewater, public safety and more. The town of Charleston, Vt., will generate solar electricity to power the school and all town-owned facilities thanks in part to a $50,000 USDA Community Facility Grant. The town used the funds to help build a 456 panel solar array. The grant came as part of the Rural Economic Area Partnership Zone set-aside, a designation authored by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy that brought an additional $6,701,706 to the Northeast Kingdom in 2016.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of $214 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 areas. For more information visit the USDA Rural Development websites for Vermont and New Hampshire on www.rd.usda.gov.