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New state director tours the RGV

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The new state director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture took a tour of Hidalgo County on Wednesday to see how the agency can help with technology and infrastructure.

Lillian Salerno took her first visit to La Joya, a city of approximately 8,000 people.

As the newly appointed state director, Salerno was able to see firsthand areas in the city that are underdeveloped and want to grow.

"What we need is more money for infrastructure and more money for things like fire departments and fire trucks and city halls," Salerno said. "Things where the government can come in and help rural communities."

Salerno says that is one part of what the USDA does: Provide federal assistance to developing areas within the state that need it. 

"We have loans and grant money for small cities and the Valley is chuck-full of them," Salerno said.

Expansion and growth at city facilities was not the only issue brought to light on the tour.

City officials were able to meet with Salerno throughout the city tour to discuss more issues.

"We don't have any clinics in our communities," La Joya Interim City Manager Leo Olivares said. "So they go to the metro areas to get healthcare and so that is an ongoing issue."

When asked what could be done to improve healthcare in rural part of the Valley, Salerno said technology and donations are the key.

"What we have is telehealth," Salerno said. "We have telehealth, we have telemedicine, sponsor ambulances and EMT equipment."

Something that is also needed for surrounding rural areas nearby. 

"What we try to do is make it so the citizens in rural America really are tended to just like in big cities and right now it's not," Salerno said. 

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