Small business grants available

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the availability of loan and grant funds to support rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises.

“By supporting very small business enterprises through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, USDA has been able to direct assistance to small firms that otherwise might not be able to obtain credit,” said Vilsack. “This program has shown that even a modest investment of federal dollars can have a huge impact for the local economy in small towns across rural America.”

Despite budget uncertainties, USDA remains focused on strengthening the rural economy.

USDA’s Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program was established under the 2008 Farm Bill to support the development and ongoing success of rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises, which are defined as rural businesses with 10 or fewer employees. About $12.2 million will be provided to eligible applicants this year. Under the program, USDA may provide loans of up to $500,000 to Microenterprise Development Organizations. They, in turn, make microloans for business start-up or development to eligible microentrepreneurs who are unable to obtain conventional credit elsewhere. Grants of up to $30,000 are available for MDOs to provide technical assistance and training, particularly in rural areas that have experienced significant outmigration.

RMAP applications are due by Sept. 13, 2013. More information about how to apply is available by contacting any USDA Rural Development state office.

RMAP funds have helped a number of small businesses since the program began. In 2010, USDA provided the Southern Illinois Coal Belt Champion Community, Inc., a $500,000 loan and $187,000 grant to capitalize a revolving loan fund and provide technical assistance for microbusinesses in rural southern Illinois. In the first three years of the project, this organization has helped 16 microenterprises with direct loans totaling $650,000 that have created or saved 67 jobs. The businesses supported include medical offices, and retail, restaurant and manufacturing operations.

Since the program began, USDA has provided 97 loans totaling more than $37 million and 124 grants totaling more than $9.5 million to 110 MDOs. These organizations used the USDA funding to make more than 760 microloans to 712 rural microenterprises. This assistance to individual businesses has created or saved an estimated 2,700 jobs.

Vilsack said that today’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs, such as RMAP, for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, Vilsack added, saying that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.

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. Obama and Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.