A water tower being constructed in 2019. Water infrastructure upgrades are planned in three rural Michigan communities, aided by low-interest loans and grants from the USDA Rural Development office of Michigan. Courtesy of USDA Rural Development
What’s happening: It was late June when the Michigan office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development first announced $73.9 million in low-interest loans and grants for infrastructure projects in the state’s rural communities. Late last week, the state announced another $10.8 million in loans and grants for water infrastructure improvements in Cheboygan, Elberta, and Honor.
But the USDA Rural Development office of Michigan is just getting started, says State Director Brandon Fewins. Millions more in infrastructure projects will be announced for Michigan’s rural communities in the coming weeks, months, and years — and perhaps even another announcement in the next few days.
Why that is: “These are the exact type of infrastructure projects that the Biden administration has been talking about with their Build Back Better Act,” Fewins says. “Over the next few years, you’re going to see record investments in our power grid, our water — in our infrastructure all around.” Most recently: The USDA Rural Development Michigan office recently announced $10.8 million in loans and grants to support infrastructure improvements in three northern Michigan communities, and all three are focused on improving water infrastructure. Cheboygan will use a
$7,294,000 loan to replace outdated and undersized water mains. Elberta will use a $1,406,000 loan and a $1,994,000 grant to abandon two outdated wells and well houses, replacing them with one well in a new location. And Honor will use a $158,000 loan to complete wastewater treatment system improvements.
How to apply: Fewins says that eligibility requirements vary from program to program and that municipalities can call the USDA Rural Development office of Michigan to see if they qualify for a loan or grant. The water infrastructure loans and grants, for example, were available to municipalities below 10,000 in population. The loans are low-interest loans, he says, and will remain historically low even with the anticipated federal interest rate hikes. With the grants, the lower the median income is for a community, the more grant money becomes available.
Why it’s important: “For municipalities needing to update, maintain, or build capacity, these loans and grants are the building blocks for economic development,” Fewins says. “I like to say that the Rural Development office is the economic development arm of rural America.”
The USDA Rural Development office of Michigan can be reached at (517) 324-5190 or via it website.