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Making Federal Resources More Accessible for Rural Communities

Summary: 
The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities and USDA release the Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities guide to programs from the four agencies that rural communities can use to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, and enhance quality of life.

Federal agencies often get requests from local governments and organizations—especially those in rural America—to make information about available grants and resources easier to access and understand. The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communitiesand USDA have just released a publication that does that. Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities is a guide to programs from the four agencies that rural communities can use to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, and enhance quality of life. It provides key information on funding and technical assistance opportunities as well as examples of how rural communities across the country have put these programs into action to achieve their goals. With this menu of options, local leaders can more easily identify federal resources that support community planning, cost-effective infrastructure, economic development, brownfields revitalization, and other activities that are part of achieving sustainable communities. They can also see program eligibility and matching requirements at a glance.

 The White House Rural Council has heard from many stakeholders that keeping track of federal funding availability, researching program requirements, and completing applications can be a heavy burden for communities, particularly small rural communities with limited staff capacity.

For instance, local officials and business owners told EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan at a roundtable discussion in Brevard, North Carolina last fall about the difficulty of identifying the right federal programs to meet local needs. Stakeholders talked about the complexity of navigating federal funding catalogs, distinguishing eligibility and population thresholds, and matching available programs to projects in need of funding.

We’ve also heard about the excellent results rural communities can achieve when they are able to coordinatemultiple funding sources to capitalize on their assets, create jobs, and promote sustainable, homegrown economic development. Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communitiesdescribes how leaders in Southwestern Wisconsin refined their community goals through a HUD-funded five county planning effort and obtained a USDA Rural Business Opportunity Grant to begin working toward these goals, one of which is to support family farms and strengthen the region’s agricultural sector.

Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities can ease the burdens associated with identifying and understanding federal programs and can help rural communities and regions achieve their goals. Additionally, federal agencies are working to better publicize open funding opportunities. For example, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities maintains a list of available grants on its website. By making federal resources more accessible, we can support rural communities’ efforts to strengthen their economies, create jobs, and enhance quality of life.

Doug McKalip, Senior Policy Advisor, White House Domestic Policy Council