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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

What is USDA Rural Development?

By: Katie Baughman, Policy Intern

OVERVIEW

United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development is a division within the USDA that focuses on the economy and quality of life of rural areas within the United States. Created under the 1990 Farm Bill, the division was founded and began to receive funding in 1994. They fund programs to address a variety of things, including water infrastructure, energy, electricity, internet access, and housing access. Primarily, Rural Development programs provide rural financial assistance; they currently offer over fifty financial assistance programs, which provide grants or loans. These grants and loans are aimed at developing single-family and multifamily housing, businesses, and community facilities, as well as energy and telecommunication.


USDA Rural Development programs often differ in how funding is allocated: grant and loan money can go to states, to businesses, state agencies, engineers or developers, or directly to individuals. “Eligible rural areas” are also defined differently depending on the program, but often, programs are aimed at rural communities with populations of 20,000 or less. The 2023 federal budget allocated over 3.9 billion dollars discretionarily to USDA Rural Development programs.


HOW DOES THIS AFFECT RURAL AREAS?


Rural areas across the country have specific needs and challenges, distinct from urban and suburban areas, that often go under-addressed in part due to a lack of resources. USDA Rural Development is one of the key governmental divisions created specifically to tackle these challenges, with huge benefits for rural America. They specifically design programs around the needs of rural communities and often are the sole or main provider of governmental funding for projects like electricity accessibility, housing loans, etc. For example, USDA Rural Development is a key resource in expanding access to broadband high-speed internet through their Rural Broadband Direct Loans, something many remote rural communities across the country don’t have access to otherwise. USDA Rural Development also has programs specifically designed to increase rural access to housing, such as Single-Family Housing Direct Loans, which result in low-income individuals in rural communities having increased access to homeownership. USDA Rural Development is a broadly important division that works to mitigate poverty and provide a variety of resources to rural areas, especially high-need communities within rural areas.



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