Five of 10 N.M. field offices to close, but outreach efforts to expand.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency in New Mexico — which provides a variety of services, including loans and grants for housing, business development, water and waste-water projects and other public services to rural areas — is cutting its number of field offices in half beginning on Friday, a move state director Ryan Gleason hopes will help actually improve the delivery of services to rural New Mexicans.
The field office in Socorro will shut down for good this Friday, and beginning on Monday services to residents of Socorro and Catron counties will be handled out of the current office in Los Lunas, El Defensor Chieftain reported this weekend.
Also closing on Friday, will be the Rural Development field office in Espanola, Gleason told ABQjournal.com this morning.
Gleason also told us he expects current offices in Deming, Raton and a satellite office in Gallup to be closed by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, and that services currently offered in Carlsbad will be moved to Roswell.
Currently, Gleason told us, the field offices have provided assistance for the most part on providing single-family home loans to low-income residents of rural areas — with the agency's main office in Albuquerque or area offices in Los Lunas and Las Cruces providing other services.
But those offices left open under the reorganization –in Aztec, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Los Lunas and eventually Roswell — will be able to offer residents a fuller range of services, Gleason told ABQjournal.com.
The agency also plans to hold "office days" at regularly scheduled times in some 40 New Mexico communities to explain what services are available — services many New Mexicans aren't aware of, Gleason told us.
Of some 80 rural development programs authorized by Congress, New Mexicans have been using only about 35 to 40 regularly, Gleason told El Defensor Chieftain.
"We're finding that most communties in New Mexico weren't getting good access," Gleason told the paper. "I believe that everyone in New Mexico pays a lot of taxes and they should benefit from these programs."
More than $62.2 million was channeled into New Mexico projects and programs through USDA Rural Development last year, according to an earlier Albuquerque Journal story.
"We've got money that's not being spent," Gleason told us, saying up to $75 million has been authorized by Congress for New Mexico.
For more information, go to the agency's New Mexico home page.