U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Brad Finstad announced funding is available for very low- and low-income individuals and families seeking to purchase or repair a home in a rural area.

"Our housing staff will work one-on-one to ensure quality customer service for all applicants," Finstad said in a news release. "To help prepare potential buyers for this exciting next step, USDA requires applicants to take a homeownership education course that helps prepare them for the buying process to safeguard this important investment."

USDA's Direct Home Loan Program offers financing to qualified very low- and low-income applicants unable to qualify for traditional financing. No down payment is required, and the interest rate could be as low as 1 percent with a subsidy. Applicants must meet income and credit guidelines and demonstrate repayment ability. The program is available in rural communities of 20,000 people or less.

Data shows Rural Development's home loan programs increase economic development and job creation in rural communities. For example, according to the National Association of Realtors, the sale of an existing median-priced home generates nearly $60,000 in local economic activity. This includes direct real estate industry supports, home furnishings, appliances, landscaping and other economic activity.

The maximum loan amount for repair is $20,000 at a 1 percent interest rate, repayable for a 20-year term and can be used to improve or modernize homes and do essential repairs. Grants of up to $7,500 are available to homeowners 62 and older and must be used to remove health or safety hazards, such as fixing a leaking roof, installing indoor plumbing or replacing a furnace.

Time is limited to receive these funds. Qualified applicants have until the end of September 2019 to apply. Contact a USDA Rural Development housing specialist to learn about qualifications.

In April 2017, President Donald Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Sonny Perdue presented the task force's findings to Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.