Zero-interest loans and grants are now being offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an effort to promote long-term economic growth and community vitality in rural areas.
The funding programs, administered by the USDA Rural Development department, includes $30.6 million in no-interest loans, and $9.2 million in grants to establish revolving loan funds that finance business and economic development activities in rural areas.
Applications for these funds will be accepted through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, federal officials said. That would include rural utilities eligible for USDA financing under the Rural Electrification Act who wish to help administer the funds locally.
The funding is designed to help with business startup and expansion, business technical assistance and job training, and community facilities projects that support economic development.
Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis through state offices of the USDA and are evaluated monthly.
The Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program is looking to improve conditions in designated Rural Economic Area Partnership Zones, and for members of Native American tribes in rural areas, for grants up to $100,000.
Funding can be used to support business incubators, feasibility studies and business plans, long-term strategic business planning, leadership and entrepreneurial training, and other related efforts.
USDA also has two other grants available from funds put together for the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, including a $500,000 grant for rural transportation projects, and a $250,000 grant for federally recognized Native American tribes. Those funds can be used to provide technical assistance and training to help rural communities improve passenger transportation services or facilities.
For details, visit USDA.gov.