WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to help low- and very-low-income rural residents repair their homes.

"The costs associated with maintaining a home are a challenge for many rural homeowners and the funding we are announcing today will help low- and very-low-income residents in rural areas maintain and repair their homes," Vilsack said. "The Obama Administration and USDA are working to ensure that rural homeowners have safe, sanitary, energy-efficient places to live."

Housing Preservation Grants are provided to intermediaries such as town or county governments, public agencies, federally recognized Indian Tribes, and non-profit and faith-based organizations. The grants are then distributed to qualified homeowners or owners of multi-family rental properties or cooperative dwellings who rent to low- and very-low-income residents. The grants can be used to weatherize and repair existing structures, install or improve plumbing or provide access to people with disabilities.

For example, recently, USDA provided a Housing Preservation Grants of $50,000 to Neighborhood Housing Services of Black Hills, Inc. to help rehabilitate the homes of 14 very-low-income families living in western South Dakota. Funds were used to upgrade and repair plumbing, electrical work, roofing, foundations, windows and doors and to create accessibility for homeowners with disabilities.

In 2008, the Kendal County Public Health Department, headquartered in Yorkville, Ill., received a $53,000 Housing Preservation Grant, matched with funds from a state weatherization grant, to help rural families in the Department's two-county service area make their homes more energy efficient. With the funds, the agency was able provide a $3,925 grant to help David and Maria Blas in Plano, Ill., insulate their attic, caulk the frames of all their windows, replace the roof, and clean their hot water heater, making it operationally more efficient.

USDA may award up to $10.1 million in competitive grants through the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) published in the April 27, 2010 Federal Register. The grants to be awarded are part of USDA Rural Development's annual budget and are not funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of 6,100 employees located in the nation's capital and 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $134 billion in loans and loan guarantees.