It’s been a busy week on the rural economy beat, thanks to President Obama’s newly-released rural jobs initiative. As part of that push today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of rural development grants and loans awarded to states as part of the clunkily-named “USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program.” The idea, Vilsack said, was to stimulate rural economies by offering short-term construction jobs and longer-term work to maintenance contractors. The Community Facilities program is financing a wide variety of construction and upgrades for schools, childcare centers, hospitals and emergency services.
All told, about $55 million in funding was spread out over 31 states and Puerto Rico. New Hampshire scored $38,000 in grants.Bear Camp Valley Pre-School in the town of Tamworth, west of White Lake State Park, got $10,500 to improve energy efficiency. And Tiny Twisters Child Care Center in Franklin got another $27,500 to buy furniture, appliances and playground equipment.
The take in other New England states includes:
- Vermont: 2 grants, totalling $50,700
- Maine: 1 grant for $10,500
- Massachusetts: 2 loans exceeding $2.2 million
During a conference call with media today, Vilsack spent a lot of time answering questions specific to the Midwest. When State Impact asked about how the USDA is focusing on New England specifically, he said, in part,
“…We’re also looking for additional opportunities to partner…New England states obviously know a great deal about. Outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, biking, skiing, etc, are a major component of our strategy to rebuild the rural economy. And so to the extent that we reinvest resources in better maintaining our forests, as we are doing, and then expanding those opportunities by working with the private sector, non-profit sector, to invest their dollars into proper forest management, it just enhances opportunities for recreation…”