Congressman Hal Rogers capped off a busy week here at home with the Friday morning announcement of nearly $1.2 million in USDA Rural Development funding for three local agencies.
"My career has been devoted to this area," Rogers said. "I've come to realize the House is not my home; this is my home. We've all worked together to try to improve our region…Some of our greatest needs are represented in the projects that we're talking about today including the opioid epidemic, job creation and emergency services."
SKED (Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation Inc.) was awarded the bulk of the funding with a $1 million loan from Rural Development's Intermediary Relending Program and a $91,587 Rural Business Development grant to recapitalize a revolving loan fund for rural small businesses within SKED's 45-county service area.
"Thanks to the USDA, SKED has been able to help create or retain nearly 3,300 jobs in our region," Congressman Rogers noted.
SKED Executive Director Bret Traver talked about a few of the businesses the agency has recently helped. "The impacts on people that these funds can make is really what gets me up in the morning," he said, commending the congressman for his role in creating SKED 35 years ago. "I can't thank everybody enough."
The City of Somerset will use a $50,000 Community Facilities grant to help purchase a new ambulance for its Emergency Medical Services, which responds to an average of over 50 calls per day over a service area of 677 square miles. The city is putting $70,000 toward the purchase of the 2020 Ford F-450 mounted with a McCoy Miller box, which is expected to arrive by the end of this month.
"I can promise you the folks that are doing the heavy lifting, very literally, at EMS are thankful for this new vehicle and it's going to be appreciated," Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said in accepting the grant award.
Sunrise Children's Services Inc. will use a $39,400 Community Facilities grant for repairs to the Alpine Tower and Odyssey courses at the Cumberland Adventure Program campus. The courses — neither of which has been operational since 2016 — build self-confidence, self-esteem and assist in the recovery of program participants. Sunrise President Dale Suttles accepted the award.
"Thank you for investing in the kids of Sunrise," he said. "…We want them to have a chance for the American Dream, and I think that's what USDA is completely about."
The ceremony was held at The Center For Rural Development where the congressman was joined by old friend and colleague Hilda Legg, who rose from working on Rogers' first congressional campaign in 1979 to serving as the Center's first executive director and now as Rural Development's State Director.
"What you see here today is quite a variety of investments that we make," Legg said, "but Rural Development is all about keeping smaller rural communities vibrant economically, keeping people healthy and providing services."
Legg went on to say that during President Donald Trump's administration, Rural Development has helped 469 Pulaski County families with affordable housing, invested $16.5 million in local job creation, and invested $17 million in Pulaski community projects including water and broadband infrastructure.
"All together in the Trump administration, we have put $3 billion in rural Kentucky in just a little over three and a half years," Legg said. "We at Rural Development want to be your partner…We believe that working together, we make our rural communities healthier and stronger and more economically viable."
Congressman Rogers closed his address by commending all agencies for their "continuing work through this unprecedented year.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all to re-examine our priorities," the congressman continued, "to be more frugal with our resources and not to leave anything to chance.…While we still have work to do, I'm incredibly thankful to see each of you here today with an unwavering determination and resolve to keep working and growing in the face of adversity."