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USDA Strives to Improve Water Quality and Public Health in Low Income Communities in the Southwest

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Judith Canales traveled to Texas recently to announce a much needed change to the USDA Rural Development water and wastewater funding process. Canales met with community members and local leaders in the City of Peñitas water treatment plant during her visit, and also spoke before members of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders 2012 Summit, held in McAllen.

The change to the funding process for water and wastewater treatment facilities will assign priority points for projects in colonias. The funding change will help increase investments needed to strengthen these communities and improve the quality of life for their residents, ultimately helping colonias address significant health risks.

The announcement was a terrific follow up to the new “Border Community Capital Initiative” (Border Initiative) MOU between U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) in June 2012.

The MOU is a joint collaboration designed to increase access to capital in the U.S./Mexico border region which includes some of the poorest communities in the country. The border initiative will assist local financial institutions improve their capacity to raise capital, increase lending, and boost investment it in their communities. Investors will widen the channels through which larger private institutions and federal agencies can reach potential home owners, renters, business owners, facilities operators and service providers who need their support.

Depending upon the results of the Border Initiative and availability of resources, the agencies may consider extending this collaboration to other persistent poverty regions of the country.

The Border Initiative and outreach to colonias is a part of a series of initiatives delivered through the White House Rural Council, created by President Obama to coordinate Federal resources in helping to grow the rural economy and create more jobs in rural America.

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