On May 11, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt started the Rural Electrification Administration as a depression relief agency similar to the Work Projects Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Rural electrification was not a suitable relief project, since it needed small numbers of skilled men rather than large numbers of unskilled labor. By August 1935, the agency was modified to a lending agency. A loan to a group at Bartlett had been approved in November 1935 for $33,000, one of the first ten loans made by the REA. The Bartlett farmers had contracted to buy power from the municipal generating plant, so they were able to move ahead swiftly. The utilities feared uniform rate and area coverage regulations. Municipalities were not sure about their legal power to build rural lines. Utilities undertook some rural line building, but did not use REA loans. Most borrowers were organized groups of farmers and ranchers like those at Bartlett. Each group had to convince REA officials that their project was feasible and that the loan was sound
By January 1, 1965, the REA borrowers and investor-owned utilities had more than reversed the statistics on rural electrification—instead of only 2 percent of Texas farms with electricity, there were only 2 percent without electricity. By 1966 REA loans had financed seventy-seven distribution systems in Texas. Together, these systems operated more than 165,000 miles of line reaching into all but ten Texas counties.
Source: Rural Electrification Administration (REA)
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