On Tuesday, May 20th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in the Federal Register a Notice of Funding Available (NOFA) totaling approximately $25.5 million for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) for fiscal year 2014. Of this amount, USDA expects to make approximately $1.5 million available for microlender technical assistance grants and $24 million available for loans. The anticipated award announcement date is September 1, 2014. According to the NOFA, MDOs may borrow a minimum of $50,000 and a maximum of $500,000.
RMAP is a USDA Rural Development program created by the 2008 farm bill that provides grants and loans to intermediary Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs), who in turn help rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises—very small rural businesses with 10 or fewer employees—with training, technical assistance, and microloans for business development. MDOs can include nonprofit entities, Indian tribes, or public institutions of higher education. They must provide access to capital and have a demonstrated record or plan to provide or facilitate access to capital and related services to microentrepreneurs. According to yesterday’s USDA press release, “the RMAP program has provided $52 million for 257 projects to support very small business enterprises” since 2009.
The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill provides RMAP with $3 million in mandatory funding per year, which was sufficient to generate the program level of $25.5 million for FY 2014. In addition to the funding available under yesterday’s NOFA, in the next two months, USDA will use carry-over funding from previous years to fund existing technical assistance projects and annual MDO grants.
While RMAP did receive mandatory funding–also known as direct spending–from the 2014 Farm Bill, it did not receive any discretionary funding in FY 2014. Unlike mandatory funding, discretionary funding does not come directly from the farm bill. Rather, it is appropriated on an annual basis, and is under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committees as opposed to the Agriculture Committees. Currently, Congress is considering the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which NSAC argues should provide an appropriation of $3.3 million in discretionary funding for RMAP loans and grants in FY 2015.
The deadline for submitting an RMAP application is Monday, June 30, 2014, and application materials must be sent to sent to the applicant’s local USDA Rural Development State Office.
The application form, checklist, and NOFA for the current RMAP funding round are available here.