Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stimulus boosts dev’t programs

Stimulus boosts dev’t programs

Thursday, 19 November 2009 03:58
by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff

JOSEPH M. Diego, USDA Rural Development Area II director, discussed how an influx of funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has boosted the current USDA Rural Development budget resulting in an increase of development opportunities.

“We didn’t get a special budget to help with the Guam buildup but the stimulus package has been a substitute for that and benefited a lot of the projects that we are engaged with outside of the fence,” Diego said referring to communities outside the military bases.

USDA Rural Development received $3 billion to add to its guarantee program for loans and grants; $1.1 billion for low-interest direct loans and $61 million in grants for nonprofit community organizations.

Stimulus monies also boosted housing programs in the rural development budget with just under $1 billion and $3.7 billion for the infrastructure program. Stimulus funds expire in September 2010.

Since 2001, the rural development program has invested more than $1.1 billion nationwide for equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth and home ownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. Guam received roughly $300 million of that during the same period.

Kenneth Lujan, manager for U.S. Small Business Administration, discussed future local development opportunities for the island but noted a critical shortcoming.

“The problem is we lack grant writers. We lose a lot of money,” Diego said. “We have grants available for the villages but the mayors are so busy working with their communities, they don’t have time to write the grants.”

But Lujan said a collaboration with USDA has been made to ensure that needs of the small business community are met.

Lujan said the Small Business Development Center is another assistance tool geared toward providing free services in preparing business plans in addition to one-to-one counseling. “We do have a lot of these programs that you can throw yourself to,” Lujan said. “It’s just a matter of you coming in for assistance.”

Diego also cited opportunities to assist businesses in achieving renewable energy initiatives and energy efficiency. USDA Rural Development can provide energy grants to “for-profit” businesses up to $500,000 and loans up to $25 million to assist businesses with investments.

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