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Daily Legislative Brief from February 20, 2020

Economic Development

HB 1139 – Relating to Regional Rural Development Grants

On Thursday, February 20, HB 1139 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R-Jonesville) was heard by the House Commerce Committee and was reported favorable with 23 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

The Regional Rural Development Grants Program is a state matching grant program established to provide funding to build the professional capacity of regional economic development organizations. The Rural Infrastructure Fund assists units of local government with the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects that encourage job creation and capital investment. Both programs are administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

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 Rural Area of Opportunity (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 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 floor.

AIF supports efforts to increase economic development in Florida’s rural areas by increasing job growth.