Special to the Journal
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today commemorated Native American Heritage Month and recognized USDA programs that strengthen Native Americans and their communities.
“This month, USDA is highlighting its support for Native Americans and the Department’s longstanding partnership with Tribes and tribal members,” Vilsack said. “We take great pride in our work to help Native Americans start and expand businesses, buy homes, improve community infrastructure and preserve their land and culture. During Native American Heritage Month, it is particularly fitting to recognize the important contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make on behalf of this great nation.”
Vilsack noted that USDA support for Native Americans and their communities is yet another reminder of the importance of Farm Bill funding to a spectrum of USDA programs across rural America. He said a comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, and that’s why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done now.
USDA provides a vast array of funding and technical assistance to help Native Americans and their communities. For instance, during fiscal year 2013, USDA Rural Development’s Electric Programs invested $275 million – an historic high – to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to more than 80,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives. This total includes a $167 million loan to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority headquartered in Fort Defiance, Ariz.
Through its Community Facilities program, USDA Rural Development invested $114 million in 73 loans and grants during Fiscal Year 2013, representing a 600 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2012. This illustrates that increasingly, USDA is becoming the lender of choice for many Tribes throughout the country. Of this funding, 24 grants ($3 million) were provided to land grant Tribal colleges and universities. The largest single investment to a Tribe in the program’s history was made this past year to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (a $40 million direct loan and $10 million loan guarantee) to help the Tribe finance a state-of-the-art healthcare facility.
Secretary Vilsack also today announced the selection of 24 Tribal colleges for grants to upgrade infrastructure and make other improvements. View the list of recipients. Each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
Here are other recent USDA awards to support Native Americans and their communities:
The Metlakatla Housing Authority is receiving a $50,000 Housing Preservation Grant to rehabilitate two homes.
Cocopah Indian Housing and Development is receiving a $25,125 Housing Preservation Grant to rehabilitate five homes.
Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Washington
The Community Transportation Association of America, Inc. has been selected for a $232,278 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to provide technical assistance to transit systems in the Tribal communities of the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes in Wyoming; the Maskantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut; the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Minnesota; and the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Maine. The association also will help Tribes in Alaska, Montana, Oklahoma, Montana and Washington.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is receiving a $50,000 Housing Preservation Grant to rehabilitate five homes.
The Sault Saint Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is receiving a $38,309 Housing Preservation Grant to rehabilitate 20 homes.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been selected for a $1 million water and waste disposal grant to install a new lift station with associated force main to a new wastewater treatment plant.
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians will receive a $100,000 Housing Preservation Grant to rehabilitate 12 homes.
The Common Enterprise Development Corporation has been selected for a $200,000 Rural Cooperative Development Grant to help Native Nations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota develop cooperative health care, housing, education, training, renewable energy and community development programs.
The Latimer County Housing Authority has been selected to receive a $449,400 Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grant to provide grants to public or private non-profit organizations and Indian Tribes, which the recipients will use to recruit, screen and provide loan packaging assistance to 20 people interested in participating in Rural Development’s Self-Help housing program.
The Tri-County Indian Nations Community Development Corp. is receiving a $376,050 Self-Help Housing technical assistance grant to help build 27 new homes for low- or very-low-income families.
Sisseton Wahpeton College is receiving a $694,000 Community Facilities Direct Loan to expand student housing.
The Intertribal Buffalo Council has been selected for a $200,000 Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant to provide technical assistance to small, socially-disadvantaged producers in rural areas.
The Quinault Indian Nation is receiving a $63,231 Rural Business Opportunity Grant to conduct a feasibility study on the viability of a Tribal pellet manufacturing plant on the Quinault Indian Reservation.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.