Washington, DC (Feb. 12, 2018) – For more than four decades, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) has been committed to ensuring that rural and small communities throughout the country have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal. The infrastructure needs of rural America have often been overlooked as a national policy priority. As the White House released its “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America,” RCAP celebrates a positive first step in addressing the pressing infrastructure needs of rural communities across the United States. The Legislative Outline’s focus on the unique needs of small communities is necessary to improve quality of life, public health, and economic resilience and growth.
Nathan Ohle, Executive Director of RCAP, notes, “Water systems serving fewer than ten thousand people make up to 85% of all community systems. These small systems have mounting costs to repair or replace aging infrastructure that is critical to providing safe drinking water and effective wastewater and storm water management. Most current estimates indicate that it would require at least three billion dollars annually to support rural drinking water alone. We are pleased that the White House proposal incentivizes much-needed investment in American infrastructure, particularly in rural communities.”
RCAP provides expertise, training, and on-site technical assistance to ensure best-practice and management solutions for capital investments to small communities across the United States, its territories, and tribal lands — much of which is possible through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development. A larger role for USDA under the proposed Rural Infrastructure Program in coordination with governors and states would be crucial in maintaining the success of these potential investments. Without the strong partnership of USDA Rural Development and its network of on-the-ground technical assistance providers, the very small and the most underserved communities could be left without funding.
There is a serious need for the federal investments to support infrastructure funding in every community across America, but without capacity building and technical assistance these investments are often not as effective. The proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2019, released by the White House, includes deep cuts and the elimination of programs that will fundamentally hinder a small rural community’s ability to thrive. The communities that RCAP serves continue to struggle with capacity, expertise, and adequate funding resources. These needs are often met by loan and grant combination funding provided by USDA Rural Development programs. Rural Development water programs are specifically designed for rural communities, under 10,000 in population, with targeted affordable financial options for moderate and low-income rural communities. Small water systems can also access loans through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) State Revolving Funds (SRF), but many small towns and rural communities are unable to afford SRF loans to finance critical infrastructure upgrades.
Programs like USDA’s Water/Wastewater Grant and Loan Program, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Rural Community Facilities Program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HUD’s Program and Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Program, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) were designed to help communities, particularly small rural communities, to invest in infrastructure, public health, and economic development in some of the nation’s most underserved areas.
“This budget would severely hurt rural communities that need our help the most,” said Ohle. “Now, more than ever, we need to be helping rural communities generate opportunities to create good paying jobs, provide safe, affordable drinking water and adequately treated wastewater, and to develop infrastructure that will lead to economic growth. It is time to start taking a more holistic approach to the needs of America’s rural communities, and this budget would severely limit the ability to do this.”
Rural communities are an integral part of the American fabric, and we stand ready to work in partnership with the federal government to improve programs that create a healthy, vibrant, and economically sustainable America. RCAP is committed to working with the White House and Congress to demonstrate how this budget could be improved to support rural communities. RCAP looks forward to engaging with members of both parties to work towards solutions that benefit every American community across the country no matter how small.
RCAP is a non-profit organization working to ensure rural and small communities throughout the United States have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater and solid waste disposal. To learn more about this work visit: rcap.org.
Rural Community Assistance Partnership