The U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a meeting in Kodiak on Friday to bring information on rural programs and services to Kodiak’s tribal governments.
The meeting came from a presidential order that directs federal agencies to engage with tribal officials on a regular basis.
The discussions focused on food production, rural housing, rural utilities, rural economic and community development and land management programs of Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service.
“We want to acknowledge we’re having a discussion between federal government and tribes,” said Jim Nordlund, USDA Rural Development Alaska state director. “Our second goal is to hear from the tribes and communities on what their needs are, and to leave information behind or give tribes information about programs they didn’t already know about.”
This is the sixth meeting the USDA has held around the state. Previous meetings took place in Nome, Bethel, Ketchikan, Tazlina and Juneau.
“This is our sixth meeting, and housing has been the predominant topic,” Nordlund said.
Old Harbor tribal administer Fred Brooks was teleconferenced into the meeting, and he expressed concern about housing for the community and the village public safety officers. A subdivision is in the works, but will take years to be completed.
“It’s going to take three years to develop and we have VPSOs that are in need of housing,” Brooks said.
Colleen Bickford, field office director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spoke on the different loan options available to aid with housing development.
“Our staff will provide technical assistance should a tribe decide to leverage these resources,” Bickford said. “We’re trying to help identify strategies to help Alaskans have healthier communities an build more housing.”
Brooks also expressed concern about replacing an old community building that is not up to code.
“There is mold throughout and we can’t get insurance on it,” Brooks said. “It’s falling down. It’s a health hazard and we need it replaced.”
Nordlund responded by giving examples of how to get creative when looking for funds, such as making buildings multiuse facilities.
“Rural development has loans and grants available to build tribal facilities,” Nordlund said. “We know there is not a lot of money in the villages, but there is some. There’s enough to pay for part. We all have to be more creative in how to pay for it.”
Nordlund said he expects to have followup conversations with the different Native corporations on issues that were brought to light during the meeting.