O'Halleran Re-Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Provide Relief to Rural Service Providers

March 26, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) joined Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-04) to re-introduce the House component of the Flexible Funding for Rural America Act: bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would allow electric cooperatives to refinance USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loans at lower interest rates, saving co-ops and their consumers as much as $10 billion.

“It’s crucial that we address the needs of our long-overlooked rural communities, who too often encounter barriers in accessing quality, affordable utilities,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “Our Flexible Financing for Rural America Act will extend a lifeline to hundreds of electric cooperatives serving rural families and businesses.”

The Flexible Financing for Rural America Act was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and John Boozman (R-AR).

The bill is endorsed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

“Many electric co-ops and their consumers are hurting as COVID-19 continues to bring health and financial hardships to rural communities,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of NRECA. “Congress can provide substantial relief to millions of electric co-op members simply by letting co-ops do what other businesses already can—refinance their debt at today’s low interest rates without a prepayment penalty. Every dollar co-ops save means more money in consumers’ pockets.”

NRECA estimates that co-ops could realize a net savings of $10.1 billion from repricing $42 billion of direct and guaranteed RUS loans held by about 500 co-ops. An average co-op with typical RUS debt could save $2 million a year in interest payments at today’s interest rates.