A little-known facet of the CHIPS and Science Act, passed in Congress this summer to boost the semiconductor industry, could benefit areas of rural Pennsylvania in need of an economic shot in the arm.
Part of the CHIPS Act is known as the RECOMPETE Pilot Program. It includes $1 billion to revitalize distressed areas by helping towns and counties apply for federal funding for initiatives to support long-term economic growth and create lasting, quality jobs.
Ted Boettner, senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, said parts of rural Pennsylvania could benefit substantially from these grants.
“For example, at Greene County, Pennsylvania, over one-third of the working-age population is not employed in the county,” said Boettner. “And that county would be able to benefit from a 100% federal grant if they applied. And it could be, you know, in the tens of millions of dollars, to help revitalize the county’s economy.”
He added that the grants could be used for land and site development, infrastructure investments, housing, workforce development, small business assistance, broadband access, resources to connect residents to opportunities, and other investments to help communities rebuild.
But first, they have to apply.
Matt Hildreth, executive director of ‘RuralOrganizing.org,’ said big cities typically are first in line for federal grants – but the pilot program works on building economic opportunities from the bottom up.
“So, it targets funds specifically to small towns and rural communities, and communities across the country that are economically distressed,” said Hildreth, “and ensures that they have a shot at getting access to those federal funds as well.”
Hildreth said residents in rural areas across the country want to see an increase in jobs with decent wages, a decrease in their daily living expenses, and quality-of-life improvements without the cost of living going up.
“So, the RECOMPETE Act focuses on those three priorities,” said Hildreth. “And it does it by allocating long-term grants to some of the most economically distressed communities in the country. It’s open to both urban and rural communities – but rural communities account for, like, 80% of the distressed communities across the country.”
He explained that the RECOMPETE Act provides local leaders with the flexibility to invest in whatever challenges they see in their own community, so it isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.