Important Updates from USDA Rural Development Rural Utilities Service
- Mar 11, 2021 2:51 pm GMT
There are two important updates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Rural (RD) Utilities Service (RUS) that I wanted to share with the group.
First, the application deadline for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is March 31. REAP helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
The funds can be used for renewable energy systems such as:
- Biomass (for example: biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels).
- Geothermal for electric generation or direct use.
- Hydropower below 30 megawatts.
- Hydrogen .
- Small and large wind generation.
- Small and large solar generation.
- Ocean (tidal, current, thermal) generation.
Second, USDA is asking for public comments on the Final Rule to Expand Broadband Access in rural America under the ReConnect Program. The rule will eliminate paperwork requirements and will shorten the application process. It also enables an applicant to submit a letter of credit as proof of its financial ability to complete a project. These changes are expected to enable more companies to participate in the ReConnect program, resulting in more broadband coverage in rural areas. The changes take effect April 27, 2021, at the end of a 60-day comment period.
The ReConnect Program offers loans, grants and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that do not currently have sufficient access to it.
An example of the ReConnect program in action took place in October 2020 in rural Pennsylvania. During the second round of the ReConnect program USDA invested $750,000 to connect 237 rural households to high-speed internet in Pennsylvania. The loan was awarded to Youngsville Television Corporation, doing business as Blue Fiber Corp. The company will deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 685 people, 34 businesses, eight farms, two educational facilities, two town halls, a post office and a fire station to high-speed broadband internet in Crawford County. The full press release can be read here.
As always, if you should have any questions or comments feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to assist. Email: Daniel.Blottenberger@usda.gov
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