USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced support for projects to create jobs and improve the quality of life in rural communities. Vilsack made the announcement as part of the Obama administration's week-long focus on the rural economy and the White House Rural Council, which is addressing key areas of need in rural America including helping rural small businesses access capital, expanding rural job search and training services, and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

"The funding will help rural communities remain attractive places for job creation and business expansion," Vilsack says. "The Obama administration and USDA are committed to ensuring that rural communities remain economically competitive by offering residents access to quality health care services, modern library facilities and school buildings, and reliable emergency equipment and services."

Financing totaling nearly $55 million in loans and grants will support 107 projects through the USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Program. Eligible projects include essential community facilities for public use in rural areas such as fire protection, safety, health care, education and other community needs.

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