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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that 116 projects aimed at improving water and wastewater services in rural areas across the United States will receive financial support from the government.
The announcement coincided with Earth Day and represents the largest ever investment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in rural water and wastewater systems. A statement released by USDA said that some $387 million will be allocated to 116 projects in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Of the total amount, $237 million will be made available through loans and grants from USDA's Water and Environmental Program, while the remaining $150 million will be offered in the form of grants through the 2014 Farm Bill.
USDA expressed its commitment to prioritize areas that are in greatest need of help. Of this year's 116 projects, 16 are focused on improving water services in areas with persistent poverty, while a further 29 are in communities that are part of USDA's StrikeForce initiative, which aims to reduce poverty by improving business opportunities.
Among the areas which are set to benefit most from the funding is the city of McCrory, Ark., which will get $2.1 million for the construction of a water treatment plant and two water supply wells, as well as Paintsville, Kentucky, which will receive a loan worth $4.9 million and a $2.1 million grant for an upgrade of its sanitary and stormwater sewer systems, USDA said.