Throughout 2020 there was considerable investment made in rural communities to help bolster their local economies. Investments were made in areas of water infrastructure, high-speed broadband, and business development. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) helped to provide rural areas with a substantial amount of support to strengthen rural businesses and communities.
“Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA invested a record $40 billion in rural communities in 2020,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand said in a press release. “This assistance is helping increase economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for rural residents across the 50 states and all U.S. territories.”
Rural infrastructure received the most funding support. A total of $6.3 billion was invested in 125 projects to upgrade or build electric infrastructure. Smart Grid technology was installed to improve operations and monitor electrical grid security in rural areas. Roads, airports, and transportation improvements were also made possible by $140 million in investment through the Community Facilities Programs. Investments of $2.1 billion were made in the expansion of access to clean drinking water and the improvement of wastewater management systems.
More than $2.1 billion was spent in an effort to bolster economic development in rural communities. The Business and Industry (B&I) Loan Guarantee Program helped create or save close to 18,000 jobs. A total of $1.7 billion was spent on assisting 384 rural businesses through the B&I program. More than $184 million was awarded as loans and grants through the Rural Energy for America Program. The investment helped rural businesses make energy efficiency improvements and invest in renewable energy systems.
COVID-19 exacerbated man of the challenges facing rural communities. USDA worked quickly to try and mitigate some of the problems that were highlighted by the pandemic. Brand noted that the investment in rural communities was important “because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”