Rural Development:

Patchwork of Federal Water and Sewer Programs Is Difficult to Use

RCED-95-160BR: Published: Apr 13, 1995. Publicly Released: May 15, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on federal rural development programs, focusing on: (1) federal programs providing assistance to rural areas for water and wastewater facility construction; (2) the programs' objectives and eligibility criteria; (3) problems rural areas have in dealing with these programs; and (4) group views concerning the possible consolidation or elimination of some programs.

GAO found that: (1) there are 17 different programs administered by eight federal agencies designed to help rural areas construct, expand, or repair water or wastewater facilities; (2) the 17 programs have the common objectives of improving rural areas' economy and infrastructure and helping rural areas achieve healthy living conditions; (3) eligibility criteria for the programs vary considerably, such as the minimum age and maximum population requirements; (4) rural areas face difficulties in utilizing the programs, including coordinating funding from programs with differing timetables, contending with duplicative requirements when multiple programs are used to finance projects, and coping with requirements that hold small projects to the same standards as large projects; and (5) groups representing rural areas agree that federal rural assistance needs to be reformed to give states and local areas more involvement, although they are concerned that state governments may not respond to communities' needs.

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