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USDA/RUS RIN: 0572-AC55 Publication ID: Spring 2021 
Title: ●Updates to 7 CFR 1777--Section 306C Water and Waste Disposal (WWD) Loans and Grants and RUS Bulletin 1777-2. 
Abstract:

The objective of the section 306C WWD Loans and Grants program is to provide water and waste disposal facilities and services to low-income rural communities whose residents face significant health risks.

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS/Agency) will publish a final rule to amend the existing 7 CFR 1777, section 306C WWD Loans and Grants, regulation and the current RUS Bulletin 1777-2, Section 306C Water and Waste Disposal (WWD) Loans and Grants Project Selection Criteria . The 7 CFR 1777 governs the implementation of multiple RUS funding accounts, which in this case are commonly referred to as set-asides as they are separate and smaller programs than the Agency’s primary funding mechanism, the Water and Waste Loans and Grants. The set-asides that follow the 7 CFR 1777 include the Colonia and Native American set-asides. There is both a capital infrastructure and individual component of the Colonia program. The Colonia monies related to assisting individuals have recently been transferred to and delivered by the Rural Housing Service (RHS). Among the updates to this regulation is a recommendation from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) Audit Report (GAO 18-309, Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Opportunities Exist to Enhance Federal Agency Needs Assessment and Coordination on Tribal Projects) issued on November 13, 2019. GAO recommended that the Agency implement a scoring factor for the Native American set-aside program similar to the scoring element that currently exists for Colonia projects.

 Both the Colonia and Native American programs are highly competitive. With funding requests often exceeding funding availability, scoring criteria are used to assist with the prioritization of pending applications. The scoring elements, which are outlined within the regulation, are the identified priorities for funding requests submitted under the applicable programs. Related to GAO’s Audit Report, the Project Selection Criteria in RUS Bulletin 1777-2 has points for access and health risks for Colonia, however, there are no points assigned for Native American projects. The Colonia and Native American set-asides are independent of each other, but the objective of the set-asides to resolve significant health risks remains the same. The plan is to separate the two types of applicants with separate scoresheets since they are two separate set-asides of funding. If a project were to use both the Colonia and Native American set-asides, the project would be scored and compete separately under each account with other projects that qualify for that specific account.

 The Agency also proposes to update RUS Bulletin 1777-2 by clarifying various terminology as well as scoring of the per capita income and unemployment criteria. This will provide clear policies, consistent program delivery, and clarify proper procedures for Agency staff, as well as greater overall customer service.   

 
Agency: Department of Agriculture(USDA)  Priority: Substantive, Nonsignificant 
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: 7 CFR 1777   
Legal Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301    7 U.S.C. 1989    16 U.S.C. 1005   
Legal Deadline:  None
Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
Final Rule  09/00/2021 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No  Government Levels Affected: None 
Small Entities Affected: No  Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: No 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Scott Barringer
Acting Assistant Administrator
Department of Agriculture
Rural Utilities Service
1400 Independence Avenue SW,
Washington, DC 20250-1548
Phone:202 692-0308