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USDA hosts job talk.

As unemployment creeps toward 16 percent on Molokai, more than double the state’s average, government agencies are searching for solutions for a lost generation of jobs.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development office hosted a roundtable discussion last week with Molokai residents, asking for their suggestions. This office’s job is to help create or expand small businesses on Molokai.

got only a bird’s eye view of how our community leaders discuss the economy,” she said.

Lopez said during the meeting that retail businesses are declining on Molokai, while the cost of living keeps rising. However, she believed Molokai will find a way.

“We’re a people of resiliency,” Lopez said of Molokai.

This was also the first time Kalanianaole Hall is being used since renovations started in 2008. No blessing has been scheduled yet, said Stacy Crivello, member of Moloka`i Enterprise Community Governance Board and attendee of the roundtable discussion. She added the USDA needed a place to meet, and since they helped fund the renovations, she thought it was appropriate for them to use the hall.


Who has benefited from USDA Rural Development?

Community Programs: Lanikeha Community Center, Na Pu`uwai Native Hawaiian Health Center, Molokai Community Health Center, Home Pumehana Senior Center, Kalanianaole Hall, Molokai Baptist Church Gym, All God’s Children Preschool, Molokai Land Trust, Maui County Fire Department and the Meth on Molokai film production.

Rural Business Enterprise Grants: Molokai Artisan Training Program, Aka`ula School, and Molokai Affordable Homes and Community Development Corp.

The office also has an energy efficiency program, home mortgage program, and water/environmental loan and grant programs.

How does one qualify?

There are 47 different programs run by the USDA to provide support to rural development. Below is an example of one type of grant and the qualifications included.

Example: Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program
Eligibility: government and the public (states, towns); non-profits; cooperatives
Funds are used to: identify business opportunities unique to rural communities — such as export markets, provide or establish training centers and business support.
Funds are not used to: duplicate current services (however, they can be granted to expand support), fund political activities, buy real estate or aid in the construction of new buildings.
Usual criteria: Sustainability, major structural changes in local economy, long-term poverty or population decline.
No minimum amount, $50,000 maximum.

What does the USDA provide?

Three different payment options are presented.

Direct loan funds come from the federal government, to be repaid. Grants come from the federal government, not to be repaid. Guaranteed loan funds come from banks, and the USDA guarantees the loan.

More information can be found at their website,, or stopping by the office in Kaunakakai, next to Molokai Pizza Café. Information was provided by Irene Lam.


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