On December 13, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced 60 finalists for the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, which aims to enhance economic recovery and rebuild American communities, including those that have been impacted by long-term disinvestment, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Challenge, the largest of EDA’s six American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)-funded programs, provides up to $100 million in funding to grantees (each of which are a regional coalition) to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters while also promoting economic equity, good-paying jobs and global economic competitiveness. The 60 finalists, including several counties, were selected from a pool of 529 applicants and will now go on to compete for Phase 2 of the Challenge.
Phase 2 of the Challenge will award 20 to 30 regional coalitions up to $100 million to implement two to eight projects that support an industry sector, such as advanced manufacturing, transportation, agricultural and natural resources and others. Those finalists who do not receive a Phase 2 award will be able to invest the $500,000 awarded to them in the first round of the program to continue to develop their projects and seek alternate sources of funding.
Twelve of the finalists are in coal communities, and EDA will award at least $100 million to coal communities as part of its Coal Communities Commitment. Overall, EDA will award $300 million of its $3 billion in ARPA funds to coal communities across the country.
Counties welcome EDA’s announcement of finalists for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. This program, coupled with EDA’s other ARPA programs, will help support local communities as they work to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.