Regional Rural Development Grants (Watch)

Regional Rural Development Grants (Watch)

CS/CS/HB 1103 (Albritton) and CS/CS/SB 1646 (Montford) make the following modifications to the Regional Rural Development Grants Program: 

• Increase the maximum grant amount that can be received by a regional economic development organization serving a rural area of opportunity from $150,000 to $250,000; 

• Revise the match requirement from an equal amount to a 25 percent annual match; 

• Clarify how grants may be used to build the professional capacity of regional economic development organizations; 

• Authorize grants to be used by an organization to provide technical assistance to local governments; 

• Remove the authorization that the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) contract for the development of an enterprise zone web portal or website; and 

• Authorize DEO to establish a “Florida Site Readiness Program” or “ReadySites.” 

The bills make the following modifications to the Rural Infrastructure Fund: 

• Remove the requirement that total project grants be up to 40 percent of the total cost for catalyst site projects; 

• Increase the maximum amount that DEO may award for projects that are not located on designated catalyst sites from 30 percent to 50 percent; and

• Expand eligible projects and uses to include broadband internet service and require they be conducted through partnerships with dealers of communication services, established by a publicly noticed and competitively selected process. 

In addition, the bills create contract/agreement requirements for both the Regional Rural Development Grants Program and the Rural Infrastructure Fund. Contracts/agreements involving the expenditure of grant funds are to be placed on the regional economic development organization’s or DEO’s website, respectively, for review 14 days before execution. The bills require the contracts/agreements to include the purpose, performance standards, budget, value of services, and travel and entertainment expenses.

(Cook)