For the first time since it was established in the 1960s under President Johnson, all communities can now apply for aid grants from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has injected massive federal funding into this previously small program, with the aim of supporting nationwide community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A generous allotment of $1.5 billion was officially made available through the program on May 7, 2020. This pool of funding is immediately available to communities all over the country through competitive grants for economic development assistance programs.

Are All Communities Eligible to Compete For Funding?

Yes. There are no special requirements for your town or city to acquire eligibility. The EDA has defined the unprecedented economic damage from COVID-19 as a “special need” affecting the whole nation.  No other economic distress criteria are necessary to establish a basis for aid.  However, all community recovery assistance applicants must still explain how their proposed project will “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” or respond to “economic injury as a result of coronavirus.”

New call-to-action

Who Can Apply?

Grant applications must come from state and local government organizations, non-profit entities, higher education institutions (including private universities), or federally recognized tribes. Small businesses and corporations cannot apply and will not be given funding from the EDA. However, private businesses may still benefit from various types of assistance from approved EDA grant recipients. 

Many state and local governments, for instance, could propose public works projects (such as the construction of facilities) in conjunction with corporations and use approved EDA funding to make the necessary investments and bring jobs to the community.

What is This Money For? Can We Use It For Anything Related to Community Recovery?

Successful grants will generally fall into a few categories:

  • Grants to state and regional organizations for well-defined economic or community recovery strategies (supply chain resilience, cluster analyses, diversification, travel/tourism-related marketing, etc.)
  • Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) programs for capitalizing or recapitalizing areas that have had their economies distressed by the pandemic
  • Awards for technology innovation activities (similar to EDA Build to Scale grants, formerly known as Regional Innovation Strategies)

There will be exceptions, but the idea is to stimulate job growth, encourage business investments, adjust for changes in the local economy, and build infrastructure that will fuel recovery and resilience.

How Do I Increase My Chances of Approval From the EDA?

For most projects, the recipient will use the money in one of two ways: planning or directly creating opportunities. Any applications that can be demonstrated to generate jobs or private investments certainly will have an edge. 

For many communities, this will be a 1-2 process that takes both steps (with separate applications). It might look like this:

  • In the first application, propose a clear plan for analysis and identification of investments that will make the most difference. Invest in urgent consultation with economic development experts for a data-driven set of options, then assemble an ideal proposal.
  • Apply again, this time with your defined public works, job creation, or other high-impact strategies and use the funding to make it happen.

In the past, the EDA expected a dollar-for-dollar match on grant funds in most cases. This is no longer the case. It may be difficult to earn a 100 percent grant rate on eligible project costs, but at this time the EDA expects the CARES Act to fund at least 80 percent—and full funding is legally permissible.

If your community has been hit hard by the coronavirus, the CARES Act will be the biggest financial windfall to come your way for the next year or more. Cities and local governing groups from coast to coast have already begun drafting and submitting their applications. Talk to the experts and take action immediately to learn how you can earn your share of the stimulus. It’s a golden opportunity to set a path towards community recovery and future resilience.

New call-to-action