The USDA Rural Development office in Bloomington, which helps people obtain low-income housing and low-interest loans, closed its doors Monday.
The consolidation comes as part of nationwide closures of USDA sub-offices announced in January after Congress did not renew funding for some of its programs. The USDA’s Director for Rural Development in Indiana Phil Lehmkuhler says his division may have a harder time providing its services to people because the office in Bloomfield will have to serve more people with fewer staff.
“We need to make sure that we’re accessible and that people can get applications, and if need be we can go out to them and help them fill out an application,” he says.
No employees will be cut as a result of the consolidation, but two Bloomington-based employees are retiring. Lehmkuhler says his office is fortunate. Others around the state have been forced to lay off workers because of the budget cuts.
“We had a permanent 15 percent cut in staff across the country, and in Indiana, due to retirements and stuff, we are down 21 percent on staff,” Lehmkuhler says. “So we’re trying to consolidate and become more efficient.”
The USDA is also closing offices in Lafayette, La Porte, and Plymouth.