Message from Irene Etsitty, Colorado’s Acting State Director at USDA Rural Development “Moving Forward for Rural America”

USDA Rural Development (RD) has received eight priorities of the new Administration:

  • Beating the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Restoring the economy
  • Racial justice and equity
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Expand access to nutrition and address hunger
  • Rebuild rural America – economic development
  • Establish fair markets
  • Rebuild departments morale and support the workforce

To address these priorities, RD offers loans, grants and loan guarantees to help create jobs and support economic development and essential services such as housing; health care; first responder services and equipment; and water, electric and communications infrastructure.

While we continue to maximize telework I want to ensure you that our Colorado staff will continue to provide exceptional customer service and stay focused on Rural America. We are committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America, working together rural America Prospers.


Assistance for Rural Drinking Water & Waste Disposal SystemsWashing hands water graphicUSDA Rural Development’s (RD) Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) help rural communities obtain the technical assistance and financing necessary to develop drinking water and waste disposal systems. Starting the process to planning and funding a system, whether new or an upgrade, can be challenging.  RD has limited grant funding available to help eligible communities with planning these systems through the Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) Grants and Pre-development Planning Grants.  These programs can assist low-income communities with initial planning and development of applications for USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal direct loan/grant and loan guarantee programsEmergency Community Water Assistance Grant Program Rural areas that have experienced a significant decline in quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency such as drought may be eligible for this grant.  Grants of up to $500,000 may be made to eligible applicants in communities of less than 10,000 in population and with a median household income below $65,900.  Funding is currently available for this program. Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) Grants are available for community’s with a population of 2,500 or less and that need funding for feasibility studies (Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) or an Environmental Report (ER) or design assistance for a water and waste disposal project.  SEARCH grants may be available up to $30,000.  Besides population requirements, entities must have a median household income below $52,720 to be eligible. Funding is currently available for this program.Predevelopment Planning Grants (PPG) are for public bodies (municipalities), non-profits and Indian Tribes.  Incorporated areas of less than 10,000 in population are eligible.  Area must have a Median Household Income (MHI) of less than $52,720. To verify MHI please contact Rural Development. Grant funds are available for up to 75% of PER/ER costs, but not to exceed $25,000. These funds cannot be used to pay for work already completed.Both the PPG and SEARCH Grants require that PERs and ERs be completed in accordance with Rural Development guidelines as outlined in RUS Bulletin 1780-2.For additional information on the WEP program in Colorado contact your local Rural Development Office.
USDA Invests in Distance Learning Infrastructure at Fort Lewis CollegeThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is investing $42.3 million to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. The $42.3 million in awards includes $24 million provided through the CARES Act. In total, these investments will benefit 5 million rural residents.USDA is funding 86 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The program helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside expertise. These capabilities make world-class education and health care opportunities accessible in rural communities. The ability to use telehealth resources is critical, especially now during a global pandemic.Fort Lewis College (FLC) in Durango, CO will use a $950,060 grant to strategically align technology that facilitates distance learning, improving access for roughly 3,270 students in the communities where they live. This HyFlex course design will be provided at four rural connectivity centers in La Plata and Conejos Counties in Colorado, Apache County in Arizona, and San Juan County in New Mexico. A HyFlex course design allows students to attend face-to-face classes, through synchronous sessions, fully online, allowing FLC to continue innovative delivering of quality education and support to students despite the continuing challenges presented by COVID-19.”Insufficient access to Wi-Fi and not being able to find a dependable cell service connection to the internet hampers a student’s ability to learn.  The funding provided today will create accessible, virtual classrooms for rural students at Fort Lewis College regardless of their location and allow them to remain connected to campus, their classmates, and the student services available,” said Acting Colorado Rural Development State Director Irene Etsitty.The rural connectivity centers will help mitigate the digital divide for the learning communities that are most affected by digital inequities by providing rural students with the internet and technology necessary to fully engage in courses from afar. They will also allow students from each community to access their professors as well as fully engage with the services that students on-campus are able to access including the student health center, faculty office hours, academic support such as tutoring and library services, and student-run organizations.Dreaming of Homeownership?housing graphic USDA Rural Development’s Housing Programs offer a broad range of homeownership assistance available to individuals and families who wish to, or currently live in rural communities.From helping a family of four, renting a two bedroom apartment for several years, own their home and pay less than their previous rent, to being able to assist a retired disabled couple own their own home in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and lower their monthly payments; our programs really do make a difference.The Direct Home Loan Program offers 100 percent financing with no required down payment for very low and low income individuals or families at a favorable interest rate. These loans are made directly through USDA Rural Development with no lender fee and are offered for a period of 33 years. The repayment on the loan may be subsidized down to one percent by the Federal Government, based on the household income. Direct loans may be made for the purchase of an existing home or new home construction.The loan amount is determined by repayment ability of the borrower. Loans made under this program are to individuals and families with income that does not exceed 80 percent of the median income level of the county where they live and who would not otherwise qualify for a conventional loan. To find out if you are eligible or for county Income limits for the programs visit http://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/eligibility/welcomeAction.do. Assistance for Rural BusinessesOpen for Business Photo USDA Rural Development has several Business Programs available to provide financial backing and technical assistance to stimulate business creation and growth.  These programs help to provide capital, equipment, space, job training, and entrepreneurial skills that can help to start and/or grow a business.  They also support the creation and preservation of quality jobs in rural areas.Loans, loan guarantees, and grants are available to individuals, businesses, cooperatives, farmers and ranchers, public bodies, non-profit corporations, Native American Tribes, and private companies in rural communities.Find more information on assistance available at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/all-programs/business-programs.Have a Need for Home Repairs?Home Repairs Graphic Spring is just around the corner and since we are spending more time at home these days, it is no surprise that you may have noticed a need for a few repairs. The USDA Rural Development 504 Program has funding available to help rural residents in Colorado make those repairs. The program is a great resource for folks living in rural communities to fund improvements and other repairs that may have been previously neglected.Under this program, eligible homeowners can apply for a loan or a grant. Loans up to $20,000 are available at a one percent interest rate with a 20-year term. You must own and occupy your home and meet income and credit requirements to be eligible. Loans can be for such repairs as replacing roofs, plumbing, heating and electrical work, weatherization, adding accessibility features, flooring and other improvements. These improvements allow homeowners to make enhancements needed to maintain their homes and increase the vitality of the community they live in.Grants for up to $7,500 are also available in which applicants must be 62 years or older and meet the income limit requirements. You must own and occupy your own home, with the value of the dwelling not exceeding Rural Development’s area loan limits for the county in which one applies.  Grants are given to remove health and safety hazards only, or to make the home more accessible for persons with disabilities. Often, these grants help enable elderly homeowners to remain in their home.For more information, contact Tammy Encinias at tammy.encinias@usda.gov.RD News and Other Agency UpdatesRural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program RBDG grants can provide funding to eligible non-profit entities and municipalities to support targeted technical assistance, revolving loan funds and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses.  Application Deadline Extended: March 31, 2021.  Applicants are encouraged to start the process early.Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development offers funding to help agricultural producers and small rural businesses develop new products from raw agricultural products or to promote new markets for established products. Electronic Application Deadline: March 16, 2021 | Paper Application Deadline: March 22, 2021Rural Community Development Initiative U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development offers grants to qualified intermediary organizations to provide technical assistance and training to help nonprofit organizations and communities develop their capacity to undertake housing, community facility or economic development projects in rural areas. Application Deadline: March 22, 2021 on Grants.gov | Paper Application Deadline: March 29, 2021Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grant U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development offers grants to rural communities with limited staff and resources to build the capacity needed to access USDA funding to support essential community facilities. Funds may be used to help rural communities identify financial resources, improve the management of community facilities, and prepare reports, surveys and applications. Application Deadline: March 22, 2021 on Grants.gov | Paper Application Deadline: March 29, 2021Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development offers loans and grants to establish revolving loan funds to provide loans to rural microloan borrowers and micro entrepreneurs, or to provide training and technical assistance to micro entrepreneurs. Application Deadline: March 31, 2021 and June 30, 2021 to the RD State Office.Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Products Manufacturing Assistance Program U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development provides loan guarantees to assist in the development, construction and retrofitting of new and emerging technologies. These technologies are advanced biofuelsrenewable chemicals and biobased productsApplication Deadline: April 1, 2021Intermediary Relending Program U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development invites applications under this Intermediary Relending Program for fiscal year FY 2021, subject to availability of funding. Application Deadline: March 31, 2021 and June 30, 2021 to the RD State Office.Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) Funding U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for projects that support strategic regional economic and community development planning. Covered programs reserving SECD funds in Fiscal Year 2021 are: Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant ProgramCommunity Facilities Loan Guaranteed ProgramWater and Waste Disposal Program Loan and Grant ProgramWater and Waste Disposal Loan GuaranteesBusiness & Industry Loan GuaranteesRural Business Development Grants; and Community Connect GrantsObligation Deadlines: June 30, 2021, for all programs except the Rural Business Development Grant Program which has a July 31, 2021, obligation deadline.Farm Labor Housing Direct Loans and Grants U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Rural Development offers low interest loans and need-based grants to construct off-farm housing for domestic year-round, migrant, seasonal, retired, and/or disabled domestic farm laborers. Federal RegisterPre-applications are required and must be sent to MFHprocessing1@usda.gov by April 1 2021; Nov. 1 2021; or Nov. 1, 2022.Farm Labor Housing Direct Loans and Grants
U.S. Department of AgricultureUSDA Rural Development offers low interest loans and need-based grants to construct off-farm housing for domestic year-round, migrant, seasonal, retired, and/or disabled domestic farm laborers. Federal RegisterPre-applications are required and must be sent to MFHprocessing1@usda.gov by April 1 2021; Nov. 1 2021; or Nov. 1, 2022.USDA Guaranteed Housing Lenders – GUS Goes Live March 1st!Attention all Lenders participating in the USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. Set Your Alarm: The New GUS goes “live” at 6 a.m. CST on March 1, 2021. Launch New GUS: New GUS URL will be available on USDA RHS LINC (https://usdalinc.sc.egov.usda.gov/RHShome.do). Your existing credentials and passwords will access the new system and do not need to be changed. Complete New GUS Lender Training: under the “New URLA Guaranteed Underwriting System (GUS)” tab in the LINC Library Training and Resources section.Rural Development Help Desk For GUS system, outage or functionality assistance- Email: RD.HD@USDA.GOV, Phone: 800-457-3642, option 2 (USDA Applications); then option 2 (Rural Development)Get the Latest Info, Follow @RD_Colorado on TwitterFebruary Twitter picture Want to find out what is going on in Rural Colorado? Check out the USDA Rural Development  Colorado Twitter page at  @RD_Colorado. Find out the latest on loan and grant opportunities for rural areas in real time. Be sure to follow us today.

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.