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Innovation Matters Educational Opportunities August 24, 2023



USDA Rural Development Partners with Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement to Strengthen America’s Rural Workforce
As part of a memorandum of understanding, USDA Rural Development will coordinate with the Alliance to help students develop leadership and job skills through agency internships and networking opportunities. Through this partnership students gain skill sets to help them advance in careers. The partnership will also help to ensure rural communities have skilled leaders and workforce to thrive in the future.

USDA Proposed Rule-Manufactured Housing Provisions
Published in the Federal Register, USDA Rural Development is seeking comments on proposed changes to Handbook 1-3550 and Handbook 1-3555 that would make existing manufactured homes, which meet specific criteria, eligible for financing. In addition, the proposal reduces regulatory burdens related to manufactured housing requirements and provides flexibilities for energy efficient manufactured and modular homes located in land lease communities operating on a non-profit basis. Comments due by October 16, 2023.

Image of FlowerMaui-Strong: Hawaii Governor Green and the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation launched the Hawaii Fire Relief Housing program aimed at immediately connecting Maui residents affected by the recent wildfires with property owners with vacant housing. Find program application forms on here.

FEMA encourages everyone to visit www.Ready.gov or www.Listo.gov to learn more about how to be  prepared and how to protect yourself and your loved ones during emergencies. For additional disaster support information, please visit the USDA Rural Development Disaster Assistance Website.

Build America, Buy America Act (BABAA)
On August 23, 2023, “Buy America Preferences for Infrastructure Projects” final rule was published in the Federal Register. USDA Rural Development continues to support the implementation of BABAA as it energizes domestic manufacturing, strengthens supply chains, and creates good jobs for people of all backgrounds and experiences across the United States. BABAA Customer Guide


Success Story of the Month

Image with Success StoryTransforming Lives & Livelihoods One Connection at a Time!

Like its namesake, Firefly is brightening the lives of a growing list of customers in nine Virginia counties with help from USDA Rural Development. Funding provided through the ReConnect Program enabled the company to build out its fiber network overhead and underground with 850 miles of cable and communications huts to transmit the signal that connects communities….[Read More]


Events / Learning

Recorded: USDA RD Rural Business and Cooperative Service - “How – To” Video Series. This series is designed to help applicants apply for funding and provides consistency and equity in the application process. The series offers “bite-sized” tips for completing application forms plus support for submitting a successful application!

8/30: Virtual | USDA and University of Kentucky to Host Webinar to Expand Placemaking Resources in Rural Communities

USDA Rural Development and the University of Kentucky offer a webinar for rural leaders to learn about creative placemaking approaches. Creative placemaking integrates arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities. Community leaders and public and private grant funding organizations interested in rural placemaking are encouraged to attend. Register.

8/29: Virtual | CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Investment Tools & Food Systems. Explore how programs at the state and federal levels can offer unique financing solutions and catalyze investment in local and regional food systems.

8/31/23: Virtual | Farm to School Local Foods: Institute of Child Nutrition Webinar on Procuring Local Foods. Learn how to procure and incorporate locally sourced foods into the school meal programs. Featuring strategies for sourcing local foods, establishing community partnerships, and addressing procurement challenges. 

9/6-8: Atlanta, Georgia | SSTI 2023 Annual Conference. Made possible in part by the EDA supported TBED Community of Practice, will convene practitioners and policymakers working to create a better future through science, technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

10/25-27: Bentonville, Arkansas | Rural Renaissance Roadshow, presented by Groundswell. Program topics will include energy resilience, solar and land use, energy efficiency and housing preservation, regenerative agriculture, and main street economic development.

10/24-27: Washington, DC | The 2023 National Rural Housing Conference: Build Rural.

11/7: Cleveland, Ohio | The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Annual Training Conference.

Innovation Matters Educational Opportunities July 21, 2023


Resources and Publications

Build America, Buy America Act (BABAA)
USDA Rural Development (RD) continues to support the implementation of BABAA as it energizes domestic manufacturing, strengthens supply chains, and creates good jobs for people of all backgrounds and experiences across the United States. RD has been approved to offer waivers to help meet BABAA requirements. Please see the waiver section of the webpage, or contact your local RD State Office, for more information.

Greenlights Grant Initiative
The “Just Keep Livin Foundation” program is designed to help school districts access federal funding to create safer schools. They offer links to grants and grant writing resources. 

Dig into your Food Network:


Success Stories

Water District PhotoCollaboration and Climate Resilience: Seal Rock Water District Finds A New Source: Seal Rock’s drinking water was in danger and for nearly 50 years, Seal Rock Water District (SRWD) relied on water purchased from a nearby town. With a $1.5 million Water and Waste Disposal Grant, SRWD was able to build a new treatment plant and 500,000-gallon reservoir above the coastal tsunami impact zone, as well as install emergency backup generators. The new system was not only more resilient but also capable of monitoring for leaks or unintentional overuse, saving residents’ money while significantly conserving water.

Regional Health Center Success PhotoUSDA Rural Development celebrates Chugachmiut Regional Health Center groundbreaking:

USDA Rural Development Alaska State Director Julia Hnilicka attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Chugachmiut Regional Health Center in Seward, Alaska, Saturday, June 3, 2023. The occasion marked the start of construction of the $20 million facility. USDA Rural Development is helping fund the project with $11 million from the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program.

USDA Community Facilities Loan Helps Airport expandPositioning a Virginia Airport for Landing More and Bigger Clients: The Shenandoah Valley Airport (SHD) approached USDA RD about a loan to build a new structure on their 400-acre property. SHD is the smallest of Virginia’s nine commercial service airports but generates about $70 million in economic activity annually. RD approved a $3,086,500 Community Facilities Direct Loan to construct a new hangar and replace aging fuel farm tanks.


Events and Learning

7/25: USDA RD Stakeholder Listening Sessions on Decoupling as a Preservation Tool for the Multifamily Housing Portfolio: Stakeholders are invited to provide input on how these changes may impact policies, program requirements and operations under the Multifamily Housing Direct Loans and Multifamily Housing Rental Assistance programs. Stakeholder Announcement.

Photo of tent7/27: Exploring Outdoor Recreation as a Component for Economic Diversification Webinar, hosted by National Association of Counties (NACo) through EDA's Building Resilient Economies in Coal Communities (BRECC) Community of Practice.

10/24-27: The 2023 National Rural Housing Conference (NRHC), Washington, DC

Innovation Matters, Educational Opportunities June 23, 2023


Resources and Publications

A Primer on Affordable Housing Development and Key Funding Sources 
This HUD Exchange resource is intended for community agencies, Continuums of Care (CoCs), service providers and other housing stakeholders who are looking to develop or assist in the development of affordable housing units in rural communities. View additional Rural Homelessness Resources.

Mapping a New Terrain: Five Principles for Equitable Rural Outdoor Recreation Economies
Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group offers this “Call to Action” relating the pressure of the short-term rental industry and the rural housing market as homeowners shift to visitors rather than long-term tenants. Challenges can be especially pronounced in recreation communities. Learn about possible housing solutions for recreation economies, like rental housing financed by low-income housing tax credits and community land trusts, to ensure long-term affordability for a sustainable and equitable local economy.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC)
HAC focuses on developing the capacity of local leaders in nonprofit organizations to help their own communities. This is done by providing formal trainings, offering one-on-one technical assistance, and connecting local organizations to resources that can build their capacity and strengthen their communities.

Housing Counseling Disaster Field Guide: An Action-Oriented Tool for Disaster Response
The HUD Office of Housing Counseling, in coordination with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offer this guide to prepare housing staff for disaster deployment. Additional links to housing disaster resources for housing professionals are obtainable from this site.


Stakeholder Spotlight

Attendees at the CMS Health Conference

USDA Rural Development Attended CMS’ Health Equity Conference at Howard University HHS’s Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) hosted this inaugural event and convened federal leaders, health providers, academia, and community-based organizations to discuss research, promising practices and innovative solutions for advancing health equity!


Housing Success Stories

Cora Suzette in front of her new home built by USDA funds

Rebuilding a Family and Community Legacy in Northampton County Her grandmother’s house couldn’t be saved, but Cora Suzette Lee's family legacy is still being preserved in a new home built on the same lot with help from USDA RD.

Habitat for Humanity supports new homeowner

Packaging Purchases AND Production to Put More Virginia Families into New Homes In Farmville, Va., Piedmont Habitat for Humanity supports new homeowner in partnership with USDA RD. The new modular houses help the nonprofit leverage grant funding to get more people into safe, affordable homes in less time than conventional construction.

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Watch this Video: USDA RD Single Family Housing Self Help Program & the Helena Area Habitat for Humanity helped a single mom’s dream came true!


Pride Banner

PRIDE: A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, And Intersex Pride Month, 2023 | The White House



Events and Learning

6/27: USDA RUS IRA Cross-Agency Rural Clean Energy Funding Opportunity Webinar. USDA, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies will host a virtual event for rural stakeholders featuring Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding and other clean energy resources.

6/29: AIANTA and the U.S. Forest Service will host an informational webinar regarding the Request for Proposals for NATIVE Act Tribal Projects and Initiatives on or Adjacent to U.S. Forest Service Managed Lands. The webinar will include a panel of past grantees and a question and answer session specific to types of projects, timelines, the application process and implementation. See the RFP.  

6/30: Housing Co-ops Discussion: Presented by the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development. Join via Microsoft Teams. Food Systems, Real Estate, Child Care and Equitable Co-op Ecosystem Meetings will be future webinar topics.

7/19 & 25: USDA RD Stakeholder Listening Sessions on Decoupling as a Preservation Tool for the Multifamily Housing Portfolio - Stakeholders are invited to provide input on how these changes may impact policies, program requirements and operations under the Multifamily Housing Direct Loans and Multifamily Housing Rental Assistance programs. Stakeholder Announcement. Register ahead - July 19 and July 25.

7/11: The Native CDFIs: Lending Insights, Best Practices, and Policy Considerations.  

Recorded: Housing Solutions in Recreation Communities Webinar. EPA, USDA, and HUD discuss housing in gateway communities. Gateway communities lie just outside or adjacent to major tourist attractions such as national parks, wilderness areas, or nature resorts.

Innovation Matters Educational Opportunities May 24, 2023


Resources and Publications

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month!
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history and are instrumental in its future success.

USDA to Bring New Jobs and Improved Infrastructure to Rural Partners Network (RPN) Communities
USDA provided awards to benefit RPN communities and support their long-term visions for strong, local economies. Complete list of projects. For more information on RPN, visit Rural.gov.

Introduction to Build America, Buy America Act (BABAA) Webinar Recording and Q&A Available
USDA Rural Development is supporting the implementation of BABAA as it energizes domestic manufacturing, strengthens supply chains, and creates good jobs for people of all backgrounds and experiences across the United States. For more information please see these resources: Webinar RecordingQ&A Document and our BABAA Customer Guide.

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Funding for USDA Rural Development
IRA represents the largest single investment in rural electrification since the passage of the Rural Electrification Act in 1936. Sections 22001 through 22005 of IRA provide new loan and grant products and unprecedented incentives to expand clean energy, transform rural power production, create jobs and spur economic growth to be offered by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service and Rural Business and Cooperative Service. Current Events, Recorded Webinars and Funding Updates will be posted on this website!

Building a Clean Energy Economy: A Guidebook to the Inflation Reduction Act’s Investments in Clean Energy and Climate Action
This guidebook, offered by the White House, provides a program-by-program overview of the Inflation Reduction Act, including who is eligible to apply for funding and for what purposes. You can find the most recent information on the Inflation Reduction Act at www.CleanEnergy.govRead the full Announcement. Also see the IRA Tribal Guidebook.

USDA Rural Development Offers a new Tribal Relations Webpage
The USDA Rural Development Tribal Relations office is a part of the Innovation Center's Strategic Engagement Division, which ensures relevant programs and policies are efficient, easy to understand, accessible, and developed in consultation with the American Indians and Alaska Native constituents they impact. 


Blog of the Month: 

Photo of Farm House

National Agriculture Day: Fifty Years Later, Farmers Are Growing a Climate for Tomorrow Fifty years after the creation of National Agriculture Day, America’s farmers, ranchers and private forestland owners find themselves on the front lines of climate change. They are uniquely positioned to deliver solutions by implementing climate-smart practices that conserve natural resources, build healthier soils, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and sequester carbon.


Events and Learning

5/31: Registration & 6/1: Registration - USDA Rural Development IRA Clean Energy Events- RUS will provide background on the NOFOs for PACE and New ERA that were published in the Federal Register on May 16, 2023.

Recorded: USDA RD’s REAP Inflation Reduction Act Webinar and Frequently Asked Questions

5/31: Rural Gateway Peer-to-Peer Webinar: Understanding the USDA - Rural Development Inflation Reduction Act Funding Opportunity for Rural Communities. Please pre-register to receive a joining link. Questions: Call 1-877-RURAL-26 (1-877-787-2526)

Recorded:What the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Means for Energy CommunitiesInteragency Working Group (IWG) on Coal & Power Plant Communities & Economic Revitalization offered this two-part webinar series exploring the historic investments in the IRA featuring multiple Federal program funds, including tax credits, relevant to energy communities.

10/16–18: ACEEE: Energy Efficiency as a Resource (Philadelphia, PA)  



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