May 11, 1935 was a significant day in the history of rural electrification. On that day 80 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 creating the Rural Electrification Administration. The REA’s function was to lend money and provide engineering services for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in rural areas.
The REA was designed as an emergency measure to spread rural electrification and alleviate unemployment at the same time. Initially it had to comply with Emergency Relief Appropriation Act restrictions. So, in August of that year, Roosevelt issued an order freeing REA of many relief act requirements, turning it into a self-supporting loan agency. REA loans were used throughout rural America to bring electricity to the countryside.
In May 1936, FDR signed into law the Rural Electrification Act that passed through Congress with bipartisan support. The law made the REA a permanent lending agency. Today, it continues as the Rural Utilities Service.
Electric Consumer has put together a video marking the “four score years” of rural electrification, to the tune of “The Battle of New Orleans.” Check it out on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ3idBGF1WQ.