The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a driving force in job creation and economic renewal in rural America.
Earlier today, I released a report (pdf) outlining how funds allocated to seven programs administered by USDA Rural Development have sparked economic growth, created or saved over 300,000 jobs, and funded projects in almost 3,000 counties. USDA staff approved 95,000 loans, made 2,500 grants and assisted 2,000 rural businesses with loan guarantees. We also assisted 93,000 American families close home loans, either by guaranteeing a loan from a lending institution or making a loan through our direct program. We approved Internet projects that will provide an estimated 7 million people, many of them in remote areas including Tribal lands, access to improved state-of-the-art broadband service.
Those are significant numbers, but as I travel the country, I am most impressed by the individuals who tell me how their lives are being changed, directly or indirectly, because of the Act. In Port Angeles, Washington, 147 workers have jobs because a Business Loan guarantee allowed a plywood plant to reopen after a three year shutdown. Older job seekers in Tennessee are receiving computer training and developing new work skills thanks to a computer lab funded with a Rural Business Enterprise Grant. A firm in Gering, Nebraska, saw demand for its homes rebound after USDA partnered with lending institutions, the city and a development firm to provide local residents with quality homes.
Through the Recovery Act, USDA has funded over 850 water projects to improve public health and environmental quality; over 560 public safety facilities; 312 cultural and educational facilities including 196 library projects; and over 180 healthcare facilities.
These efforts will continue to drive job creation for the next several years, but as importantly, the buildings, broadband and water systems, taken together, supply the economic fabric for business expansion by private companies. The Recovery Act is a continuing success, and today’s report confirms that.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture