HB 1139 – Relating to Regional Rural Development Grants
On Tuesday, February 4, HB 1139 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R-Jonesville) was heard by the House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee and was reported favorable with 12 yeas and 1 nay. AIF stood in support of this legislation.
Three regional economic development organizations operate in Florida. Each coincides respectively with one of the state’s three Rural Areas of Opportunity (RAO). A RAO is a rural community, or a region comprised of rural communities, which has been adversely affected by an extraordinary economic event, severe or chronic distress, or a natural disaster, or that presents a unique economic development opportunity of regional impact.
The bill amends the Regional Rural Development Grants Program to clarify how regional economic development organizations may build their professional capacity and expand grant use for technical assistance. The bill also increases the total annual grant award available to the three regional economic development organizations recognized by the DEO as serving an entire RAO, decreases the annual grant award available to other organizations located in or contracted to serve an RAO, and eliminates grant eligibility for organizations representing rural counties or communities that are not located in a RAO. Additionally, the bill reduces the percentage of grant funds that must be matched with non-state funds from 100 percent to 25 percent of the state’s contribution and increases the maximum amount of funds that DEO may expend for the program, from $750,000 to $1 million annually.
Finally, the amends the Rural Infrastructure Fund by increasing the percentage of total infrastructure costs that may be funded by a grant award, expanding eligible projects and uses to include broadband internet service.
HB 1139 will now move to the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.
AIF supports efforts to increase economic development in Florida’s rural areas by increasing job growth.