USDA Rural Development in Georgia has been very busy and working very hard for our rural communities throughout the state. As the new state director, I am very proud of the employees who have been doing that work. I wanted to recognize them and say “thank you” for a job very well done. I also want to share some of those accomplishments with you.
In fiscal year 2009, Rural Development programs invested over $1.58 billion in Georgia. Our programs helped create or save 1,355 jobs, helped 4,781 families buy their own homes, and helped 245 families make essential home repairs. We helped three communities fund water projects serving 3,359 households. We helped communities purchase essential equipment including fire trucks, emergency equipment, police cars, an emergency warning system, an HVAC system for a library, computers, and an ambulance. Construction funded included a medical facility in an underserved area and renovation of an old high school.
Those numbers are very impressive and there is no doubt in my mind that these programs and funds are helping rural communities throughout the state.
But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Our staffing numbers have been declining over recent years, but our workload is going up. The guaranteed home loan program exploded last year because of the lending crisis. In fiscal year 2008, we made 1,265 guaranteed home loans for a total of $152,043,835. In fiscal year 2009, we made 4,410 guaranteed home loans for a total of $527,054,538. This is three and a half times the number of loans with the same staff!
In order to make these loans, Rural Development staff worked long hours, put off many family commitments, and took work home. They used their personal cell phones to do government business. They put in extra hours and they didn’t make overtime and often didn’t even claim compensatory time.
They have made big sacrifices because they believe in the work we’re doing. They sincerely want to help rural communities and rural families. We are grateful to have jobs, and we know many in the state do not. We hope through our business programs, armed with FY 2010 funds and Recovery Act dollars, to partner with rural communities to bring more jobs to rural Georgia.
We are proud to serve rural communities and look forward to future partnerships. I’m particularly concerned about reaching underserved communities and families. For more information about Rural Development programs, please visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/ga. A staff directory with office locations is available on that site. If you would like a four page program summary sent to you, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and provide an e-mail address or complete mailing address.
Accessing federal programs can seem daunting for small communities, with resources already stretched to the maximum and no grant writers available. Rural Development staff can work with you to complete the applications. The most important requirement is that the community be united and determined. We stand ready to help you apply for programs.
Shirley Sherrod of Albany was appointed State Director of USDA Rural Development on Aug. 17. She is celebrating Employee Appreciation Days Nov. 17-19 with staff around the state.