The 20th century United States may have seen a migration of residents from rural to urban areas, but for those who remained behind, modern conveniences can be scarce. Now, the United States Department of Agriculture is taking steps to improve quality of life.

Those who have remained in rural areas many times struggle with a lack of access to many modern amenities that many in cities take for granted, such as high speed internet, affordable electricity, and even clean water supplies.

In an attempt to reduce energy costs in this down economy, the USDA is extending funding to stabilize and reduce energy costs for residents of remote rural areas. In these regions, electricity can come with a hefty price tag.

“These grants will help home and business owners offset rising energy costs by financing energy efficiency and power generation improvements to deliver energy in a more cost-effective and environmentally appropriate way,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Grants are awarded to such areas as the Denali Commission in Alaska, awarded $8 million for energy generation and distribution projects, including $4 million to support construction of renewable energy and efficiency projects in extremely high-cost remote villages in Alaska.

According to the USDA, “The villages to be served are predominantly Alaska Native and many of the communities use fuel oil to run small power plants. In January of 2010, the height of the last Alaskan heating season, retail fuel oil prices statewide averaged $5.36 per gallon, according to figures from the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs. In prior years, funding provided through the High Energy Cost grant program has been used in Alaska construct wind generators in villages, significantly reducing the amount of fuel oil burned, resulting in a reduction in fuel charges per KWH.”

Additionally, the USDA reported this week that they are distributing $389 million to 41 states and Puerto Rico for use in public school, roads, and specific county programs.

“The annual revenue sharing payments are part of the Department of Agriculture’s long-standing commitment to rural communities, schools and American youth,” said Vilsack. “Our century-long support of America’s public schools and roads is one of many ways in which USDA and the Forest Service, as good neighbors and partners, contribute to rural communities becoming self-sustaining and prosperous.”

These grants and initiatives, along with other efforts, are helping to improve the lives of rural Americans today.

Courtesy Realty Times