5 Facts About USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program

May 7, 2024 12:24:49 PM / by Cameron Blevins

Rural Energy for America Program

5 Facts About USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program

Small business owners in America today face a variety of challenges to successfully run a profitable organization. Inflation, rising transportation costs as well as a constantly shifting labor market are all potential roadblocks owners must navigate in order to maintain strong profit margins. These challenges are particularly relevant for small businesses owners located in rural areas across the country where long supply chains exacerbate issues. In recent years one of the largest costs for many small businesses, especially agricultural producers, has been the energy costs required for operation where rising costs can be catastrophic. 

To address these concerns, the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office has instituted an opportunity to fund dozens of farmers, producers, and business owners across our rural regions of the country. The Program, Rural Energy for America (REAP), is responsible for delivering billions in grants and guaranteed loans for the purpose of retrofitting existing infrastructure as well as installing renewable energy-producing technologies such as solar panels. 

Since its inception in 2008, REAP has been one of the most popular government programs with thousands of applicants applying for funds yearly. It has been renewed numerous times and represents one of the most impactful rural investments by the federal government to date.  USFCR’s Grants Department has successfully guided many of these applicants through what can be a long and confusing application process. We understand that many have questions about this program, especially if this may be your first time seeking government grants, so we have addressed a few frequently asked questions that may prove beneficial. 

1. Do I need a System for Award Management (SAM) registration to apply for REAP funding? 

Yes, all applicants for federal funding, whether it be through a grant, loan, or contract are required to have an active SAM registration prior to submitting the application. SAM registrations require organizational documentation such as tax identification numbers, proof of Secretary of State registration, among other relevant legal documents, and the registration can take upwards of 30 days from submission to the Federal Service Desk to be validated and approved. Our Case Management Department at USFCR offers a SAM compliance service as well as other hands-on support for organizations and individuals seeking to obtain an active SAM registration. If you’re interested in SAM registration assistance, please visit our website.

2. My company has only been in operation for 6 months; can I still apply for REAP funds? 

Unfortunately, the Rural Energy for America Program is limited to applicants that can provide 3 years of financial records and 12 months of historical utility bills. This requirement allows for the USDA to establish your company's financial viability as well as your average yearly energy spend. These metrics are the highest priority when determining an applicant's project success so be sure to have these documents available before beginning the application process. 

3. Does the REAP program only apply to funds used for Installing Renewable Energy Generators like solar panels? 

No, actually REAP funds are available for a wide variety of energy-related projects in addition to renewable energy generation. Many “Brick & Mortar” retailers, office buildings, and other rural commercial infrastructure suffer from poor energy efficiency as a result of older technology and structural design. REAP offers companies the opportunity to invest in energy efficiency upgrades that will help save energy (and costs) in the long run. Some examples of previously funded projects by REAP would be the installation of new heating and cooling technology, installation of energy-efficient windows, and the addition of building insulation. A wide range of projects are eligible for funding under REAP, meaning that while there is potential for a larger pool of applicants, there is also an opportunity for you to design your project around your needs.

4. Will I need to contact third-party equipment and installation vendors prior to submitting a REAP application?

While it is not required under the program guidelines, in our experience working with applicants we have seen that having vendors in place at the time of submission greatly increases an application’s competitiveness. Third-party vendors, especially for renewable energy generation projects, can provide valuable information for budgeting, expected performance, and project timelines that can improve your odds of receiving funding.

5. Who can I contact if I have questions about REAP or other USDA-funded programs? 

The Office of Rural Development, which implements the REAP program, has designated a state coordinator for all 50 states and many territories that are capable of answering any and all questions related to this opportunity. A list of these coordinators and their contact information can be found on the USDA’s Rural Development website. Simply select your state and then click on the contact tab to view the corresponding State Rural Development Coordinator. 

If you are interested in help with your REAP application or want to know whether you qualify, be sure to contact USFCR’s Grants Department. We look forward to hearing from you and guiding your project towards a greener, more cost-efficient future across America.

If you are ready to go after grants, but need assistance in the process, USFCR’s Grant Writing Team can assist your organization’s unique program needs. 

Take the Grant Assessment

To speak with a Registration and Contracting Specialist, Call (866) 216-5343

Tags: News, Grants

Cameron Blevins

Written by Cameron Blevins