The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has had a profound impact on the American people. Investments were made to create and save jobs, spurring economic activity and long-term growth. As a result, communities and families had access to resources to help lay a stronger foundation for the future of our country. In fact, through USDA’s Single Family Housing Guaranteed Program, over 80,000 American families were able to purchase or maintain a home.
The Recovery Act was implemented with unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency to ensure taxpayer dollars were being used as intended. I was concerned by the findings of the recent audit of our Guaranteed Housing Program, because using government resources effectively and prudently is important to those of us at USDA. While our review of the program shows significantly higher adherence to standards, we take these audits seriously and our Rural Development agency has already taken important steps to address the findings, including:
1. Improving, updating and clarifying loan program requirements and regulations to reflect the current economic climate;
2. Implementing additional quality control procedures to ensure loan rules are followed by those who utilize the program;
3. Finalizing a new rule to require lenders who utilize the program to ensure the soundness of the loan, and;
4. Providing additional training to staff and lenders.
In the months ahead, we’ll continue to implement these and other improvements recommended by our auditors to make sure the program is working as intended and in a manner the American taxpayers demand.
Despite these challenges, I am confident that the overall objective and integrity of the Recovery Act was met by stimulating new home construction and home sales in rural America during a time when the housing market was struggling. Not only did the agency’s loan guarantees provide home ownership opportunities to thousands of low and very-low income households, as the law intended, but also created jobs and economic activity in real estate, construction, and other affected businesses.