WASHINGTON., D.C — Rep. Robert Pittenger went before a U.S. House subcommittee Thursday to ask for more eligibility flexibility regarding USDA Rural Development grant and loan programs.
“I believe it is common sense that we create the necessary flexibility when making these important determinations, and not prevent critical funding from reaching those in need due to arbitrary population metrics,” Pittenger, a Republican who represents the 9th District, told the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.
All of Robeson County is in Pittenger’s district.
The congressman explained that Robeson County is the poorest of all of North Carolina’s 100 counties, the most ethnically diverse, and the largest by geography.
“These factors combined should alter how we determine grants, so we do not preclude cities like Lumberton, the county seat of Robeson County, which is a prime candidate for USDA Rural Development grants,” Pittenger said. “As it stands, Lumberton recently crossed the 20,000 population threshold, effectively disqualifying the town from eligibility of programs like the Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program or Economic Impact Initiative Grants.”
The county has been afflicted by slow economic growth, he said. It has been identified by the USDA’s Economic Research Service as a “persistent-poverty” county in which at least 20 percent of the county’s population has lived under the federal poverty level for more than 30 years.
Pittenger ended his remarks to the subcommittee by saying, “I look forward to working together with you to help find a solution to this national issue.”