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Agriculture Department has invested $1.35 billion in rural Nevada since 2009

The final report is in, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has invested $1.35 billion in rural Nevada since 2009, according to report from its Rural Development office.

The most recent report from Sarah Adler, Nevada State Director for USDA Rural Development, said that it invested more than $188 million in support of housing community facilities, water systems and businesses in fiscal year 2016.

Even Clark County benefited from the federal funding, with most of it going to Mesquite, Laughlin and Boulder City — rural areas of the county that qualify.

Since 2009, the agency has allocated $132.7 million in Clark County. That breaks down to $94.9 million for affordable housing, $19.5 million for business development and $18.2 million for community infrastructure.

In Clark County, some 2,534 families were assisted with rental assistance at multifamily and senior complexes. Some 526 families received loan assistance to buy homes, and eight families were assisted in home repairs.

Boulder City Hospital, which opened in 1954, has received funding from the USDA during the Obama Administration to pay for a 28-bed expansion. The agency provided a direct loan of $13.87 million and guaranteed a loan for $2.44 million.

The funds paid for 19,000 square feet of space, including a surgery center, an expanded emergency department, a gero-psych unit and enhanced services for physical and occupational therapy. Adler said the hospital is now well-equipped to serve the region’s critical access care into the future while continuing to support an aging population.

“Over these eight years, that is a highlight in terms of a project that added community vitality and quality of life,” Adler said.

While Boulder City Hospital obtained a loan with a reduced interest rate of about 3 percent, it would be double that from a bank, Adler said.

“The purpose of loan guarantees (is to) give commercial lenders enough comfort in a rural community where the market is not as big and strong, and (they) see rural communities are more risky,” Adler said.

The agency had its origins in the Great Depression when Congress contemplated how to assist rural America. It goes beyond agricultural assistance as a method to improve housing and community infrastructure, including water and sewer assistance and business development, she said.

“We think of ourselves as a three-legged stool, and the seat of that stool is a holistic economic development approach,” Adler said.

In terms of business development, the USDA Rural Development assisted nearly three dozen Clark County businesses with loans and grants. In addition to projects such as Boulder City Hospital, the community infrastructure program provided financial assistance for water and environmental projects and a broadband project.

In fiscal year 2016, the agency provided $12.4 million in guaranteed single-family home loans and $1.8 million in direct loans, Adler said. Some 75 percent of the home loans are in Mesquite.

The agency did $1.99 million in rental assistance in 2016 in Clark County.

“It’s for people who are very low income and live in apartments that are financed by us and mortgage lenders,” Adler said. “They don’t have adequate personal funds to pay rent and pay 30 percent of their available income for rent. We have a large apartment complex financed in Laughlin, and that’s one of the biggest pieces of money that goes into Clark County.”

In 2016, the USDA helped 85 Clark County families become homeowners with their loan assistance program as part of giving a “leg up to the middle class,” Adler said. Rural families can need more assistance with housing because the jobs don’t pay as well as they do in urban areas, she said. Homeowners might pay as little as 1 percent interest.

When agency guarantees loans for people to buy homes, it provides an 80 percent guarantee. That assurance gives banks the confidence to make loans in rural communities where there isn’t a big resale market, Adler said.

The agency has a staff of 26 people in Nevada. Adler is the lone political appointee, and she will step down with the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

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