RCAP Focused on Expanding Services

light_bulbBrian Scales, Chief Development & Governmental Affairs Officer

The Development Team is continuing to serve the mission of the organization by continuing to provide the assets necessary to continue to do our work. Currently we are working to increase revenues to expand our technical assistance in drinking and wastewater asset management, launch a geographic information system (GIS) mapping technical assistance program, compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, initiate trainings for private well owners, and increase our small business lending capacity.

Current highlights include:

•Providing financial assistance to over 400 homeless families (HomeBASE and RAFT) and case management services to an additional 145 homeless families per month living in temporary accommodations (Hotels).

•Providing technical assistance to 90 small communities to address their water and wastewater infrastructure needs.

•Helped small communities leverage over $1.2 million to lend to low income residents to repair failing septic systems.

•Made over 20 loans over the past 6 months to help disabled homeowners make modifications to their homes so that they can continue to live at home rather than in an institutional setting.

•Have applied to add additional programs and funds to our business lending portfolio.

Despite the restrictions and cuts experienced over domestic funding cuts, the organization continues to focus on the strategic goals of the organization. The Team will continue to work tirelessly to provide the support necessary so that the organization can continue working with communities and individuals.

Legislative Update

Legislative update for NLAri Neumann, Director of Policy Development and Applied Research, Rural Community Assistance Partnership

As the 2014 mid-term election nears, Congress has gradually checked off many of the big items on its to-do list. Congress will likely devote most of the rest of this legislative session to passing its annual budget and appropriations bills that fund the federal government. We expect that the spending bills will be wrapped up before Congress heads home for its annual August recess and the election season is in full swing. The budget outlook for rural programs is much the same as last year. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, major changes are unlikely to occur.

One of the big items that Congress recently finished is the reauthorization of the 5-year Farm Bill. It passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama on February 7. The total bill is complex and multi-faceted and is organized into 12 titles that each address one issue area. The one that most directly impacts RCAP’s work is the Rural Development (RD) Title.

This Farm Bill’s RD Title included a few significant policy changes that will impact rural communities in mostly beneficial ways. It included:

  • Instructions to USDA-RD to streamline the application process for communities applying for loans and grants
  • A requirement that USDA-RD report to Congress regularly on the efficacy of the agency’s programs
  • A pilot program to encourage local and regional planning
  • $150 million in mandatory funding to address the backlog in water/wastewater applications
  • And RCAP’s top legislative priority, authorization for technical assistance for the Essential Community Facilities Program (CF).

The technical assistance authorization for CF is modeled after the successful water and wastewater technical assistance program that currently exists at RD. It sets aside a small percentage of the funds that are appropriated for the program to be used by non-profit entities to help communities adhere to the rules and requirements of the CF program. It helps ensure that projects go smoothly and protects federal investments by ensuring that communities are able to repay any loans they receive from RD. This type of assistance has long been requested by RD state offices, and RCAP looks forward to working with USDA-RD to implement this important policy change.

While the Farm Bill as a whole was not without controversy, the RD Title is a strong title for rural communities that will make many positive changes. We here at RCAP are looking forward to working with USDA to implement the new policies enacted in the bill and ensure that they work to improve the quality of life in rural America.

Educational Tools to Sustain Our Rural Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems

Regional map Apr 2010 (from display)

Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions 

RCAP Solutions is a private nonprofit 501c 3 multi-state Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center that simultaneously serves as a Massachusetts based Economic Development Agency with a variety of housing, lending and client programs that all support self-sufficiency.  RCAP Solutions serves as the northeast member of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) with headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts and onsite drinking water and wastewater technical assistance specialists and trainers throughout the Northeast and Caribbean.  The RCAP National Headquarters are in Washington DC and the website is www.rcap.org.  All RCAP specialists utilize state and federal funding to work onsite with small rural drinking water and wastewater systems to effect four community outcomes:

a)      Improved environmental and community health

b)      Compliance with federal and state regulations

c)      Sustainable water and waste disposal facilities

d)      Increased capability of local leaders to address current and future needs.

For many years, RCAP personnel have documented the unique challenges small systems face in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations.  These challenges include but are not limited to a lack of financial resources and customer base, aging infrastructure, management limitations, and high staff turnover.  At RCAP we offer technical assistance and training to system personnel and boards to raise awareness of technical, managerial, and financial issues and to improve the operations and compliance of these small systems.

The funding sources that RCAP utilizes to deliver training and technical assistance are highlighted here along with the types of technical assistance offered to communities.   These funding streams translate to the delivery of quality training and technical assistance programs unmatched by any other technical service provider to small and rural systems.  It is important to note that the RCAP technical assistance program is nationwide with technical assistance providers that work directly onsite with communities.  RCAP is also not a membership based association driven by dues, so programmatic efforts are very compatible with federal funding guidelines.  RCAP utilizes Health and Human services funding to improve water and wastewater facilities in small, low-income, rural communities.  With this funding, RCAP staff annually provide a variety of key training programs, serve on advisory councils and develop innovative programming in addition to serving roughly 600-750 communities with technical assistance.    For FY 2014 so far, RCAP Solutions staff have delivered long-term technical assistance to over 114 communities, delivered 130 technical assistance consultations to additional communities and we have conducted over 50 trainings to 289 community members.  Currently RCAP Solutions staff also participate in 16 task forces and program activities throughout our northeast region.  General examples of ways RCAP utilizes this funding includes the provision of workshops for small systems on asset management and budgeting, follow-up with state primacy and agency referrals, conferences and training development in the area of decentralized and onsite wastewater, rate reviews, and TMF (technical, managerial, and financial) training and assistance for small systems.  This year, RCAP Solutions staff are utilizing this funding to participate in the WARN (Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network)  meetings and activities in Pennsylvania and Maine, participate in the RCAP National Training Work Group and training activities, participate in the educational planning committee for the Massachusetts Drinking Water Day, and assist with the Ashokan Release Working Group (ARWG) Technical Subcommittee and NYS DEC Non-Point Source Pollution workgroup, as well as attendance at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference and participation at the Annual New Hampshire Drinking Water Training and Expo.

Since 1988, RCAP has worked with RUS (Rural Utilities Service) to provide assistance to communities of 3,300 or fewer residents that are eligible for RUS loans or grants- helping them both with the technical aspects of systems operations and with finding the financial resources necessary to operate their systems sustainably.  By putting these communities on the path to fiscal sustainability, RCAP reduces their reliance on future government grants and loans.  The RCAP network works closely with the Rural Development’s long-and short-term performance measures-particularly the goal of “ensuring the sustainability of water and wastewater systems in rural communities.”  For FY 2014, RCAP Solutions staff have provided long-term technical assistance to over 72 communities, conducted 3 board trainings (with more scheduled) and have trained over 63 staff and board members in small systems.  RCAP Solutions staff is also currently working on 5 Vulnerability Assessments and Emergency Response Plans with more scheduled.  This year it should also be noted that RCAP Solutions staff have assisted to develop capital projects and leverage over $8 million dollars of federal and state funds to benefit these rural communities.  Across our RCAP network, Rural Development is served by all of our regional RCAPs thus bringing the numbers of communities served with this funding source to well over 750 on an annual basis.

RCAP has also partnered successfully with the EPA in serving small water and wastewater systems for over 20 years and much of the technical assistance and training that is offered is customized for these very small drinking and wastewater systems to address compliance and local leadership issues. Some examples of our previous operator training deliverables and summer workshop series were highlighted in previous blogs by this author and are available here and here.

These training products and materials were made possible courtesy of our EPA/RCAP Training and Technical Assistance for Small POTW and Onsite/Decentralized Wastewater Systems and Private Well Owners to Improve Water Quality Project 2012-2013.  With this funding the RCAP Network provided over 30 on-site technical assistance projects, 20 face-to-face training sessions for system managers of small drinking water systems, 6 new training videos on wastewater collection and treatment impacts on watersheds, and over 80 half–day trainings for beginning and intermediate operators and 3 technical training webinars.  In addition, there were numerous and separate training and technical assistance activities for the private well and onsite/decentralized wastewater portions of the EPA grant as noted above.  When the grant closed, RCAP network staff had achieved 100% completion of all grant deliverables in a timely manner and feedback from the systems was overwhelmingly positive.

This year the RCAP activities will be focused on training and technical assistance activities supporting compliance of our small drinking water systems with the Safe Drinking Water Act and improving water quality through training and technical assistance to private well owners.  The outcome of this technical assistance for small and rural communities is improved compliance, improved public health, sustainable facilities and increased awareness by local leaders of future needs.

At RCAP Solutions we are making these connections every day for funders, politicians and local leaders when it comes to supporting the water and wastewater infrastructure needs of our small and rural systems. RCAP services promote economic self-sufficiency and system viability for the future.

A Local Leader’s Guide to Generating Legislative Advocacy for Your Project

advocacySukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions

A recent conversation with a small wastewater system in southwestern Pennsylvania and then again with a small drinking water system in central Pennsylvania has reminded me of the need to highlight a couple of successful steps that small systems can take to build and develop legislative advocacy for local projects.  In its simplest terms, legislative advocacy means working with individual lawmakers and lawmaking bodies to gain support for your local initiatives and projects.  Such efforts are usually successful over a period of time and thus longer-term infrastructure development or rehab projects can be ideal community projects to highlight for your state and local representatives, even when the funding for the project is far down the road.   While legislative support can take several forms including a bill with funding attached, a bill with wording that supports a particular philosophy or helps to legitimize an issue, a bill with regulations that assist a target population or a local ordinance, it is often the budget advocacy and the political and moral support as well as links to other contacts that persuade most of our RCAP community leaders to improve efforts in this area.

Timing is a critical element in conducting effective legislative advocacy.   While many of our community leaders keep at it as often as they can, deciding when to push can be crucial to success.  Some things to consider on timing of requests are when lawmakers are about to take up something crucial to the issue such as an infrastructure bill, just before and during budget time, when a vote is likely to be very close or a veto is considered or when a bill can be amended, or when an issue in your community is drawing attention.  At the very least, legislative education and outreach should be a part of any community initiative linked to your project.  It is your chance to tell your community story and to identify clearly the local need and generate support for your project.  Secondly, it is important to remember that your legislators want to hear from you or your group directly.  These legislators represent you and a personal approach can be quite effective.  For agencies and organizations, advocates and lobbyists can also be effective in highlighting issues and creating awareness.  However, it should be remembered that nobody becomes effective in this area overnight or by “going it alone.”    It helps to assemble a team of allies that include your county planners, RCAP, local community and business leaders, and ultimately your project engineer.  Lastly, be prepared to discuss the economic impacts of your project in terms of jobs created or retained, local businesses impacts and prospects for local development, most recent income survey data or other median household income data, and highlight what other populations (tourists and recreation enthusiasts, educational, etc) will be attracted to your community after the project is funded and developed.  It also helps to identify and note the local cash and inkind match as this is an indicator of serious local preparation for this project.  With many communities competing for the same sources of funding, those that are often willing to think “outside the box” and prepare early to engage local and state representatives may be more successful at obtaining funding.

At RCAP Solutions, we have the resources and training materials to assist you in this area.  Contact your local technical assistance provider to begin planning your efforts.  Building successful support for your local project with legislators involves the following steps summarized below.  Remember also that you may need to build out from these steps and RCAP is here to assist.

1)      Make sure your local project is well-defined in terms of scope and project description, local need, local support and documentation of issue (compliance, funding, public health, other, etc.) and local match.

2)      Gather project allies, advocates, contacts and develop a coherent communication and coordination structure that provides consistent messaging and required actions of all parties.

3)      Learn about the legislative process at every opportunity and get to know your local and state legislators, county commissioners, and Legislative Director for your congressional district.

4)      Learn to write effective letters and emails to legislators about your project and begin communicating with these individuals in a personal and direct manner as well.

5)      Define and clarify your message as you move forward and remember that at any time you could be explaining the project for the first time to a newly elected legislator.

6)      Define and clarify your request or “ask” of the legislator.

7)      Develop a positive relationship with the media and get comfortable with staging local events such as tours, “meet and greets” and community-get togethers with legislative officials.  Offer to support such events if your legislator is looking for those local opportunities.

8)      Pay attention to the timing of your request or event, but take a longer term approach when it comes to the legislative advocacy process.

9)      Be prepared to discuss economic impacts of your proposed project and local efforts to support this project directly with your legislator.

10)   Do not quit, a solid advocacy effort never ends.

11)   Make sure to invite and include all project allies, contacts and your local legislators in check signing events (when you do eventually get that funding) and thank them for their efforts.

Lastly it may help to remember this.  Many areas that are now regularly discussed and funded by legislative bodies- environmental preservation, adult literacy education, services for the homeless-were unmentioned and, often, unheard of until concerted efforts by advocates brought them to lawmakers’ attention.  RCAP Solutions technical assistance staff advocate for rural communities and small drinking water and wastewater systems.  If your particular project fulfills a larger need or requires closure of a funding gap that similar projects face, then it may be time to make that connection for your legislator.

For web resources on this topic, please visit the Community Tool Box, a public service of the University of Kansas, maintained by the Work Group for Community Health and Development.  The Community Tool Box is a free, online resource that contains more than 7,000 pages of practical information for promoting community health and development, and is a global resource for professionals and grassroots groups.

Fifty Years Ago Today

LBJ1President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the War on Poverty during his State of the Union address.  

The following message was sent out from Robert Stewart, Executive Director of RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Partnership) a national network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure that rural and small communities throughout the United States have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal.  RCAP Solutions is one of the six regional partners within the RCAP network.

LBJ, The Great Society and The Origins of RCAP

January 8, 1964 is perhaps a date in history that you may not be familiar with, but is one of utmost importance to RCAP and much of the work each of you do every day in support of rural communities. It was on this date 50 years ago that President Johnson declared in his State of the Union Address that:

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

While LBJ initiated an incredible number of programs collectively known as the “Great Society”, which I will note later, it was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, creating the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) that would eventually lead to the organizations that we know today as RCAPs. Under Title III of that Act, “Special Programs to Combat Rural Poverty” were created to provide funding to rural families and communities; this assistance included loans that could be made to purchase land, improve the operation of family farms, allow participation in cooperative ventures, and finance non-agricultural business enterprises, while local cooperatives which served low-income rural families could apply for another category of loans for similar purposes. Community Action Programs were authorized under Title II leading to the creation of Community Action Agencies. Federal money was allocated to States according to their needs for job training, housing, health, and welfare assistance, and the States were then to distribute their shares of the Community Action grants on the basis of proposals from local public or non-profit private groups.

Within two years 1,000 community action agencies (CAA) had been established across America. One of these agencies, Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) out of the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, was chartered the following year. Like other CAAs, TAP was focused on helping poverty stricken individuals and families. However, they realized that to help families out of poverty conditions, community water and wastewater systems were required to provide essential services, protect the health of rural Americans and provide a foundation for economic development. These needs went beyond helping individuals to helping communities and to building community facilities. By 1968 TAP decided to expand its mission throughout the five adjacent counties by creating a new organization for these purposes and asking the OEO for support. Chartered as the Demonstration Water Project (DWP), this non-profit corporation received its first OEO grant in 1969. The success of this approach led DWP to approach OEO in 1971 to broaden its operations resulting in the award of a $6 million grant in 1972 to conduct a national program that then formed the National Demonstration Water Project (NDWP) on March 19, 1973 that included affiliates in five other states.

NDWP developed a program strategy involving field demonstration projects, research and publications, an information clearinghouse, provision of management and technical assistance and through the vehicle of the Commission on Rural Water (an ancillary group established by NDWP) a national alliance of concerned individuals and organizations to bring about needed changes and improvements in rural water and waste disposal services. Such awareness building was necessary since at this time millions of rural families were without community water and wastewater services. Between 1974 and 1978 NDWP spent over $9 million through its affiliates (which had grown by 1978 to 16 statewide affiliates and 35 special program agency partners) to improve or create water and wastewater systems in rural America. At this time NDWP funds were primarily for direct construction related costs.

In 1977 the Community Services Administration (CSA – successor to OEO) provided a grant to NDWP to study and survey the possible role of CAAs in water and sewer development in rural areas. Virtually all of the CAAs indicated a dire need for additional services in this area and over half were already providing these services. Realizing that the extent of the needs required a revised model, NDWP embarked on an initiative to transfer expertise to intermediaries for local development projects. The first two regions identified where interest was strongest and where viable organizations were in place that could be trained to provide assistance in water and sewer matters were RHI in New England (later to become RCAP Solutions) and the Center for Rural Affairs (which later spun off this work to create the Midwest Assistance Program) . These agencies would provide consulting assistance to rural communities and use existing development funding instead of relying on direct project subsidies as was the original NDWP design.

NDWP’s primary funding was transferred to the Economic Development Administration while CSA looked to expand the regional technical assistance model created by NDWP. From 1979 to 1981 CSA designated and funded four additional RCAPs: Virginia Water Project (now the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project); Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Great Lakes Rural Network (now WSOS Community Action Commission) and Community Resource Group along with RHI and MAP. CSA used a six-region geographic division of the country first developed by the Farmers Home Administration and funded these as the Rural Community Assistance Program. In 1981 CSA was abolished and its duties transferred to the Office of Community Services within the Department of Health and Human Service. In 1989 the six RCAP agencies reorganized NDWP as RCAP, Inc. with a new governance structure that survives to this day: a 12 member Board of Directors consisting of one representative from each region and six at-large members.

RCAP is You!

While the path towards the final development of RCAP was not a “short or easy struggle,” it was an endeavor that has resulted in RCAP assisting and continuing to assist thousands of rural communities not only on water and wastewater needs but also in the areas of affordable housing, solid waste and recycling services, economic development initiatives and the creation of revolving loan funds for community development.

All of you who work for an RCAP are an enduring legacy of fifty years of struggle to alleviate rural poverty, to provide essential water and wastewater services, to create opportunities for affordable housing and home ownership, and to promote economic development. There is no more important way that you can dedicate your lives than by helping our fellow inhabitants of this great land in their attempts to provide a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. While your work to improve the living conditions and opportunities of rural Americans may not always be recognized, be assured that my appreciation for your dedication and your endeavors is boundless. RCAP and its employees constitute an organization and a force for good like no other; one that has a long history of success in its chosen field, one that draws its strength from the values, aspirations and resourcefulness of rural America, one that ensures that equal opportunity is paramount, one that is confident in its abilities, and one that is continually looking for ways to improve its range and delivery of services to those in need.

A Brief Digression – The Great Society’s Accomplishments

Not that I am an historian (I am a Texan!) but I wanted to simply remind everyone what one man, albeit the President, and Congress can accomplish. While everyone may not agree with or be supportive of what was accomplished in the five years LBJ was President, there is no denying the importance of this legacy on the United States. It is almost too easy to compare these achievements with that of our current Administration and Congress. I often wonder where our nation would be if the issues faced in those years were being addressed by our current Congress. But enough of all that, it’s easier for the following legislation and programs created from 1964-1968 to speak for themselves and this list is by no mean exhaustive!

• Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968
• Voting Rights Act
• Economic Opportunity Act – which created Head Start and VISTA in addition to what was described earlier
• Medicare
• Medicaid
• Wilderness Protection Act
• Endangered Species Protection Act
• Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
• National Environmental Policy Act
• National Endowment for the Art and the Humanities
• Omnibus Housing Act, Fair Housing Act
• Stronger Air and Water Quality Acts
• Appalachian Regional Commission
• Elementary and Secondary Education Act
• Higher Education Act
• Expansion of Food Stamps
• Child Nutrition Act
• Public Broadcasting Act – Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio
• Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act
• Creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Urban Mass Transit Administration

One final note (from this veteran) on LBJ: he was the first member of Congress to volunteer for service in WWII (sworn in on December 9, 1941) and was awarded the Silver Star while serving in the Pacific. While the Vietnam War was his ultimate downfall, I believe it is important to remember all the many accomplishments of LBJ, including those that led to the creation of what are now the RCAPs.

A Vision Fulfilled – An Excerpt from LBJ’s State of the Union Address on January 8, 1964:

Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope–some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.

It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.

Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the State and the local level and must be supported and directed by State and local efforts.

For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.

The program I shall propose will emphasize this cooperative approach to help that one-fifth of all American families with incomes too small to even meet their basic needs.

Our chief weapons in a more pinpointed attack will be better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities to help more Americans, especially young Americans, escape from squalor and misery and unemployment rolls where other citizens help to carry them.

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

But whatever the cause, our joint Federal-local effort must pursue poverty, pursue it wherever it exists–in city slums and small towns, in sharecropper shacks or in migrant worker camps, on Indian Reservations, among whites as well as Negroes, among the young as well as the aged, in the boom towns and in the depressed areas.

Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it. No single piece of legislation, however, is going to suffice.

We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed areas of Appalachia.

We must expand our small but our successful area redevelopment program.

We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects.

We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program.

We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad.

We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity.

We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power.

We must, by including special school aid funds as part of our education program, improve the quality of teaching, training, and counseling in our hardest hit areas.

We must build more libraries in every area and more hospitals and nursing homes under the Hill-Burton Act, and train more nurses to staff them.

We must provide hospital insurance for our older citizens financed by every worker and his employer under Social Security, contributing no more than $1 a month during the employee’s working career to protect him in his old age in a dignified manner without cost to the Treasury, against the devastating hardship of prolonged or repeated illness.

We must, as a part of a revised housing and urban renewal program, give more help to those displaced by slum clearance, provide more housing for our poor and our elderly, and seek as our ultimate goal in our free enterprise system a decent home for every American family.

We must help obtain more modern mass transit within our communities as well as low-cost transportation between them.

Above all, we must release $11 billion of tax reduction into the private spending stream to create new jobs and new markets in every area of this land.

An Introduction to Training Tools from RCAP Solutions

RCAP Solutions is pleased to offer our most recent webinar – “An Introduction to Training Tools from RCAP Solutions”, presented by Sukhwinder Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions  on October 15, 2013 at Spring Creek Watershed Association meeting in State College, Pennsylvania.

sukh presenting

The live training was presented to a group of board members and volunteers as well as staff of Clearwater Conservancy and State College Area Water Authority.

Topics covered include:  The RCAP National Network , Training Materials and an overview of RCAP Solutions.

To access the link, please click here.

Pictured to the left is Sukh Singh, RCAP Solutions’ Director of Education and Training, as she prepares to make her presentation.

Mass scrambling to find housing for its homeless

rathe_homeless_biz02GREENFIELD — Record numbers of homeless families are overwhelming the state’s emergency shelter system, filling motel rooms at the cost to taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars a year.

An average of nearly 2,100 families a night — an all-time high — were temporarily housed in motel rooms in October, just about equaling the number of families in emergency shelters across the state, according to be the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The demand for shelter is so great that the state has been temporarily sending homeless families from Boston to motels in Western Massachusetts, although state officials said many have been relocated back again, closer to home.

 

Read the full article here: http://b.globe.com/189hBdY

Community Resources at Work


Tioga County water protection coalition presentation
Top Photo:

RCAP Solutions presented to the Tioga County Source Water Protection Coalition on Wednesday, October 30th. The event was at full capacity with six publicly owned treatment works and municipalities present.

 

 

RCAP2

Middle Photo:

RCAP Solutions presented today at the Central Pennsylvania Water Quality Association Training and Fair. PA State Lead Tom Essig, opened with an overview on RCAP Solutions, then introduced presenter David Cotton of Cotton Environmental.

 

 

RCAP1

Bottom Photo:

David Cotton of Cotton Environmental presented “The What, Why and How of Wastewater Treatment Facilities” Facilitated by RCAP Solutions. This moderately technical presentation was created to benefit novice operators and non-technical personnel (elected officials, municipal/authority managers, and administrative personnel), addressing the relationship between stream water quality and wastewater treatment plant limits.

Click here for more about our Community Resources Education and Training Programs.

Health Foundation of Central Mass Grant Allows RCAP to Assist Rural Communities With Septic Repairs

UntitledLast year, RCAP Solutions received a $56,000 grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, which allowed allow the organization to provide no-cost technical assistance to several local communities.

RCAP Solutions has completed work to develop and implement Community Septic Management Plans in the communities of Groton, Hardwick, Harvard, Orange and Westminster. These plans help towns manage their community’s septic needs in a comprehensive way and gives the town a guide to loaning out the funds to the areas which will have the most beneficial impact from an environmental prospective, resulting in vastly improved local capacity and providing homeowners with a sustainable solution to their failing septic systems.

Community Septic Management Plans help municipalities ensure they have sanitary wastewater disposal and safe and sustainable drinking water. Across Massachusetts, failing septic systems and cesspools are a leading cause of contaminated drinking water and polluted streams and swimming areas. In Worcester County, it is estimated that approximately 280,000 people live in communities that depend on septic systems for their sewage disposal.

These Municipalities now have funds approved through the Water Pollution Abatement Trust, and are eligible for $300,000 or more in no-interest funds allowing communities to lend funds to homeowners, making it possible for families to make badly needed repairs to their septic systems.

RCAP Solutions works with each town develop a way to administer their loan program at the local level. Communities are given the necessary tools and technical assistance to start their programs at the local level, which includes needed documents and public notification tools. Our Technical Assistance also ensures their local programs will run smoothly and continue under our federal grants.

RCAP Solutions plans to expand this program to include additional municipalities in Central Massachusetts. For more information about RCAP Solutions and how Community Septic Programs can be developed to meet your community’s needs, town officials should contact James Starbard, Program Resource Specialist at (978) 502-0227 or email Jstarbard@RCAPSolutions.org.

Federal Funding Outlook

Ari Neumann, RCAP Policy Director

Legislative update for NL

As of press time, the federal funding outlook for the new fiscal year, set to begin October 1, is murky at best. The Senate and the House have each passed Continuing Resolutions that would keep the government open until the end of the year so that they can pass regular appropriations bills. However, the House version contains a ban on funding for the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), while the Senate version fully funds the ACA’s implementation.

The two sides are fundamentally opposed, and as of now, it is not clear how the stalemate will be resolved. We expect there to be last-minute negotiations that will hopefully lead to some resolution, but there may well be a government shutdown in early October.

In the event that there is a shutdown, all non-essential government functions will temporarily cease. USDA Rural Development state and area offices will be closed, and EPA, USDA-RD, HUD, and other federal employees will be forced to stay home. So, federal agencies that normally provide funds for rural infrastructure will not be able to process applications for the duration of the shutdown.

Depending on how the funding dispute is resolved—whether the government is shut down or not—we expect to see either a Continuing Resolution or the full slate of appropriations bills passed this fall that will fund the government for Fiscal Year 2014. Then, we will start the budget and appropriations processes again next January for Fiscal Year 2015 (beginning Oct. 1, 2014). Once Congress provides some certainty about spending levels for the next year, agencies will begin to process applications again and proceed with the development of rural infrastructure projects.

Since most infrastructure projects are long-term in nature, we encourage communities to continue the planning process so that you are ready when the fiscal situation is resolved. As federal funds become scarcer, those communities who are best prepared stand the best chance of receiving limited funds. And, as always, we encourage you to look for funding from state and local governments, as well as private sources of capital (where available) to supplement the costs borne by the ratepayers.

The federal funding picture is murky, but regardless of how the current spending debate is resolved, the federal budget as a share of the national economy is almost certain to shrink over the next decade. That will mean less money from the federal government for water infrastructure and an emphasis on direct and guaranteed loans, rather than grants.