WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Filemon Vela introduced the Water Infrastructure for Rural and Impoverished Communities Act to give U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development greater flexibility to make loans and grants to communities with the greatest need for water and wastewater infrastructure.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to rural communities to finance critical water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Under current law, participation in the program is limited to rural cities with fewer than 10,000 residents. With this population limit in place, the Texas Rural Development office often send tens of millions of dollars in unspent funds back to the federal USDA office. This legislation will allow state Rural Development offices to provide water infrastructure loans and grants to Texas communities with 10,000 to 30,000 residents using remaining funds from the state’s annual Rural Development allocation for water and wastewater projects.

“For years, I have heard from officials in the 34th district about the gap in federal water infrastructure financing for mid-sized rural communities,” said Congressman Vela. “Texas is consistently sending unused money back to the national USDA office to be redistributed to other states when there are slightly larger communities here that would benefit from these funds. This bill would give Texas communities with up to 30,000 residents an opportunity to finance critical projects using remaining funds in the state’s allocation.” 

State and national leaders in rural water development lauded the Congressman’s bill.

“Congressman Vela’s legislation will provide additional access to critical infrastructure that is specifically targeted to counties that experience persistent poverty,” said National Rural Water Association CEO Matt Holmes. “This includes communities that have had high rates of poverty for decades, and unfortunately many lack the financial resources to provide these essential services that without this direct assistance are not affordable. Rural Water applauds and supports Congressman Vela’s legislation to protect and enhance the health and economic vitality of these communities in need.”

“Congressman Vela has been a champion in supporting water infrastructure in our rural communities throughout Texas and this nation,” said Texas Rural Water Association Executive Director Lara Zent. “This legislation further exemplifies that continued effort and recognizes the financial barriers that many of our rural communities face, especially ones that experience high concentrations of poverty. Water is so often taken for granted. The COVID pandemic reminded all of us that clean uninterrupted water is essential in every aspect of our lives.  This legislation increases access to affordable financing to directly assist utilities that serve impoverished communities which will improve the quality of life of their customers.  The Texas Rural Water Association commends Congressman Vela for his tireless efforts and we are honored and proud to call him a true friend of rural water.”

This legislation maintains the funding priority for communities with fewer than 10,000, and gives communities with populations between 10,000 and 30,000 residents the ability to apply for loans and grants with funds remaining in the state’s allocation after June 30th of the fiscal year.