The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new state director of rural development toured Hidalgo County on Wednesday to see how the agency can help with technology and infrastructure.
Lillian Salerno made her first visit to La Joya, a town of about 8,000 people.
As newly appointed state director, Salerno got to see firsthand the areas of the city that are underdeveloped and wanting to grow.
“What we need is more money for infrastructure and more money for things like fire departments, fire trucks and town halls,” Salerno said. “Things where the government can step in and help rural communities.”
Salerno says that’s part of what the USDA does: provide federal aid to developing areas of the state that need it.
“We have loans and grants for small towns, and the valley has plenty of them,” Salerno said.
The expansion and growth of the city’s facilities were not the only issues highlighted during the tour.
City officials were able to meet with Salerno throughout the city tour to discuss other issues.
“We don’t have clinics in our communities,” said Leo Olivares, acting city manager of La Joya. “So they’re going to metropolitan areas to get health care and so it’s an ongoing problem.”
When asked what could be done to improve health care in the rural part of the valley, Salerno said technology and donations were key.
“What we have is telehealth,” Salerno said. “We have telehealth, we have telemedicine, sponsored ambulances and EMT equipment.”
Something that is also needed for the surrounding rural areas nearby.
“What we’re trying to do is make the citizens of rural America really like the big cities and that’s not the case right now,” Salerno said.