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$17m Biomass Utilisation Fund launched in California, US

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A $17 million (€15 million) Biomass Utilisation Fund has been launched in Tuolumne County, California.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) launched the fund on 7 May.

The programme will provide loans to boost the use of low- and no-value wood from Tuolumne County forests and provide an alternative to pile-burning forest waste. The loans are available to small businesses, non-profit organisations and public entities including federally-recognised Tribes that are located in or relocating to Tuolumne County. Funding applicants are required to provide new and permanent job opportunities, mainly for low- and moderate-income individuals.

HCD received an award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Community Development Block Grant – National Disaster Resilience funding, to demonstrate how expanding biomass-based businesses could make the county more resilient as it continues to rebuild from the devastation caused by the 2013 Rim Fire. HCD partnered with SNC to lead efforts to establish a new fund to encourage the utilisation of forest biomass.

Jennifer Seeger, HCD’s acting deputy director for HCD’s Division of Financial Assistance, said: “This funding for loans will go far to meet the state’s goal of creating resilience in the county and can serve as a model that can be replicated in other parts of the state.”

HCD and SNC have agreed with RCAC to manage the fund. Applications are currently being accepted and all applications received by 12 June will be given the same consideration. Applications received after 12 June will be evaluated based on the availability of funds. Recipients of Biomass Utilisation Fund loans must document job creation and expend all funds by 30 April 2022.

“We’re thrilled to be working with RCAC on this programme to boost the restoration economy in Tuolumne County,” said SNC executive officer Angela Avery. “SNC is hearing from communities across the Sierra Nevada that the timing couldn’t be better to invest in job creation and forest resilience.”

RCAC CEO Suzanne Anarde commented: “RCAC is honoured and enthuses to manage the loan making process for this important endeavour to further Tuolumne County’s resilience and rebuilding effort.

“We have a number of business loan products that we believe will complement Biomass Utilisation Fund resources and further the goal of creating jobs for country residents.”