Heather Mills, V.P. for Grant & Funding Strategies
Lydia Weinberger, Civic Technology Analyst
A promising federal grant program has new funding and creates the potential for securing broadband funding to support economic development. The American Rescue Plan Act added $500 million in funding to the Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program run by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
With the new funding, EAA represents a wide-ranging $500 million program to support planning and technical assistance projects in support of a strong and stable economy. Of that $500 million figure, $200 million is allocated to coal-impacted communities, leaving $300 million in the general pot.Grant awards will range from $500,000 to $5 million.
While the EAA program has not traditionally had application deadlines, the notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) recommends submitting application packages before March 31, 2022. We recommend you treat that date as a hard deadline;the EDA team needs time to review and process applications before their funding window closes at the end of September 2022.
Eligible entities include:
- Cities, townships, counties, or special district governments
- State governments
- Federally recognized Tribal governments
- Nonprofits (excluding higher education) in partnership with a local government
- Private institutions of higher education
- Public and state institutions of higher education
Eligible applicants that applied for EAA CARES Act funding opportunity but were denied due to lack of funding can resubmit under the ARPA opportunity. As with the CARES Act funding opportunity, the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis is considered an eligible “special need,” and all areas of the country are eligible to apply.
If you are interested in applying, note that a Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) or acceptable equivalent must be in place for the intended project area; the CEDS must discuss the need for broadband; and you will need to show support from the business community.
Applicants will need to explain what steps they will “take to ensure that the economic benefits of the project will be shared by all communities in the project region, including any underserved communities.”And most important: Applicants must explain how their proposed projects will ease the economic effects of the pandemic and how they will encourage job creation—or, even better, directly create them. This program’s emphasis is the economy, jobs, and more jobs.
The grant will fund 80 percent of a proposed project. As such, applicants should be prepared for at least a 20 percent match. Higher matches will make proposals more competitive in the review process. Keep in mind as you start your planning that a wide range of technical, planning, workforce development, and public works projects are eligible for funding under this program. Building, designing, or engineering infrastructure and facilities to advance economic development strategies, or planning efforts to implement such solutions, are all considered eligible costs.
CTC’s Grant and Funding Strategies team continues to analyze the latest developments in federal funding. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss how CTC can assist you.
 This funding is in addition to $1.5 billion added to the program by the CARES Act last year, which was earmarked for projects to address pandemic recovery.