CARROLLTON, Mo. — Representative Joe Don McGaugh has hit the ground running since the current legislative session got underway in January. KMZU’s Brian Lock had the opportunity to sit down with Rep. McGaugh, who is a Republican representing Missouri’s 39th district which includes Carroll, Ray, and portions of Chariton County. Click below to hear the edited Newsmaker interview which aired live on KMZU.

Rep. McGaugh was recently elected to chair the Rural Development Caucus, which focuses on growing rural, ag-based economies. He also highlighted the benefits of the HELP Loan Program. Carroll County was included in the counties which received the grant from the state to help clean up after major storms tore through the area.

“So after the storms, a couple of weeks ago now, we do have a program through the state of Missouri through the State Treasurer’s office . . .” McGaugh told KMZU’s Brian Lock.

The HELP Loan program aims to provide relief to business owners if they sustain damage from  severe weather.

“It is a link deposit program through the state. When a community is affected by a weather event,the State Treasurer’s office can actually activate these loans which are low-interest loans for business owners,” McGaugh explained. “They continue to use their regular bank, but a portion of their interest payments, up to 60%, is actually paid for by the state. So it is a low-interest loan who were and are in the future affected by weather.”

McGaugh said that he was not aware of any businesses in District 39 that applied for the HELP loans after the tornado rolled through Carrollton paired with heavy storms across the area on Monday, March 6, but that it is important they know the program exists if they need it.

“If [those affected by the storm] are still looking for low-interest loans, contact your local banker, and they can contact the state and get signed up for that program.”

As Chair of the newly created Rural Development Caucus, Rep. McGaugh will be looking at how to grow rural economies, many of which are based on the state’s number one industry – agriculture.

“What’s good for St. Louis is good for the State of Missouri. What’s good for Kansas City is good for the State of Missouri, and then you’ve kind of got that third agriculture engine, which is agriculture.” McGaugh interjected. “A lot of the businesses in Kansas City and St. Louis are ag-related and they rely on our inputs from here in Rural Missouri.”

McGaugh told KMZU News the new caucus wouldn’t have been possible before a rule change in the House.

“This year, we did kind of a major overhaul of the rules,” Rep. McGaugh said. “One of the rule changes we put in was that members could form, sort of, a special-interest caucus group.”

“Myself and about four other individuals had asked the Speaker to create the Rural Development Caucus, and I was elected Chair,” McGaugh went on to say.

He explained that the caucus will look at ideas from communities large and small to figure out what works to grow rural economies sustainably.

“We are inviting speakers in to talk about what other folks are doing in rural areas and what we see on the horizon for our rural communities.”

“We are  also talking about work force development, McGaugh added. “Statistics show that by 2024, there will be 220,000 new jobs in rural areas, most of them being in the skilled trade area, so we are looking at how to educate those people.”

McGaugh explained that for rural communities to thrive, kids who grew up in them have to come back.

“We want those kids to come back to towns like Richmond, Carrollton and Salisbury. “We want them to be able to come back, get the education that they need, not have a lot of student debt and start a business as well as raising their families in rural communities.”

Representative McGaugh ensured KMZU News that he will continue to work towards building better opportunities for growth and success in Missouri’s rural communities and for District 39.