USDA Rural Development on March 25 said it has taken several actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak including changes to the Rural Utility Service (RUS) program for rural electric services.
USDA Rural, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the following changes were being made in the RUS program in response to the pandemic:
- On March 20, 2020, USDA extended for 60 days the deadline for Telecommunications and Electric Program borrowers and grantees to submit their annual CPA audit. In most cases, such audits are due to the agency by April 30, 2020;
- USDA is waiving borrower covenant requirements for loan agreement financial ratios for the period from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. Additionally, USDA is waiving all financial reporting requirements associated with existing RUS loan and grant covenants beginning Jan. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020;
- The RUS Administrator has delegated authority to the RUS telecommunications, electric, and water and environmental programs to consider requests to waive certain site inspection requirements during the current COVID-19 national emergency;
- Applicants will be able to use alternative methods to notify the public, such as through videoconferences, teleconferences and public notices on websites and in local newspapers, as a substitute for the public meeting notification requirement for water and waste projects.
- On a case-by-case basis, USDA will help electric program borrowers gain access to obligated funds more quickly at current low interest rates by considering extensions of loan terms (within statutory limits); considering requests to move obligated funds between the electric program’s six budget purposes where the new purpose has cleared environmental review; and by considering Temporary Normal Inventory requests.
Additional details on other USDA Rural Development changes in response to COVID-19 are available here.
The American Public Power Association in September held a webinar on RUS loans and grants in September with Joseph Badin, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Loan Origination and Approval of the RUS electric program.