Communities across the country are beginning to receive funding that will help as they continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and become more resilient in the process.
In July, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced its largest economic development initiatives in decades. The initiative is called Investing in America’s Communities and will invest $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act to help communities across the country as they “build back better.”
We will work with local communities across the country on innovative new approaches to ensure that we can increase American competitiveness by strengthening our workforce, businesses, and communities and build back better in regions across the country.”
—U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo
Funding will be spread across six priority areas including: the Build Back Better Regional Challenge ($1 billion), the Good Jobs Challenge ($500 million), the Economic Adjustment Assistance Challenge ($500 million), Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Grants ($750 million), Indigenous Communities Challenge ($100 million) and the Statewide Planning, Research and Network Grants ($90 million.) All EDA American Rescue plan funds must be awarded by September 2022 and have application deadlines.
Additionally, the Department of Commerce and EDA, along with President Biden’s Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, is making a Coal Communities Commitment, which allocates $300 million in American Rescue Plan funds to coal communities. This investment will ensure that they have the resources to recover from the pandemic and will help create new jobs and opportunities, including through the development or expansion of a new industry sector.
The first phase of the Build Back Better Challenge, which will award 50-60 regional coalitions an award of $500,000, received 529 applications from all 50 states and five territories. Regional coalitions can apply for the second phase Build Back Better Regional Challenge which will award 20-30 regional groups $25 million to $75 million and up to $100 million to implement projects that will grow new regional industry clusters or scale existing clusters through investments in infrastructure, innovation, workforce development and more.
The Good Jobs Challenge aims to help build and strengthen systems and partnerships to train employees with in-demand skills leading to high-paying jobs. The application period for this challenge is open until January 26, 2022. The program will help encourage regional workforce agencies and other community organizations, training partners and employers to work together to create talent pipelines for the future.
The American Rescue Plan funding empowers EDA to build upon its greatest strength — flexible funding to support community-led economic development — and provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA will make grants to state and local governmental entities, institutions of higher education, not-for-profit entities, unions, and tribes.
“President Biden’s American Rescue Plan delivered direct relief to the American people and was the first step to energizing the American economy following the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo when the initiative was announced. “Now, its medium-term investments will allow communities around the country not only rebuild but reimagine their economy for the future.
“With an emphasis on equity, EDA’s investments made possible by the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit communities that have been denied full access to economic prosperity and who have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Secretary Raimondo continued. “We will work with local communities across the country on innovative new approaches to ensure that we can increase American competitiveness by strengthening our workforce, businesses, and communities and build back better in regions across the country.”