Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge

Rural placemaking is technical assistance, and planning process rural community leaders use to create places where people want to live, work and play. This initiative provides planning support and technical assistance to foster placemaking activities in rural communities. Funds will help enhance capacity for broadband access; preserve cultural and historic structures; and support the development of transportation, housing, and recreational spaces.

Funding Opportunity Announcement

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge Fact Sheet

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge Fact Sheet - Español 

  • Applicant Eligibility

    Public or private groups, organizations, or institutions that demonstrate experience and expertise in providing placemaking technical assistance to rural communities. Applicants must demonstrate existing and proposed partnerships with public, private, philanthropic, and community partners to provide assistance.

    Funds Available

    USDA is making $1 million in grants available. The maximum grant award is $250,000. The Agency seeks to partner with organizations located in the northeast, southern, midwestern and western regions of the United States.

    Use of Funds

    Funds can be used to help rural communities access planning resources and technical assistance to develop actionable placemaking plans, convene partners, identify community needs, and implement priorities to build rural prosperity. Since broadband access is an essential component to providing this type of assistance, the Agency encourages planning support and technical assistance that helps build capacity for rural broadband expansion.

    The assistance must be provided for up to two years.

    Eligible Area

    Planning must directly benefit cities or towns with 50,000 residents or less.

    How to Apply

    Electronic applications must be submitted via www.grants.gov and a copy of the submission must be emailed to RD.Innovation@usda.gov by midnight Eastern Standard Time on Sept. 10, 2020. For more information, contact Angela.Callie@usda.gov or call (202) 568-9738

  • General

    When is the deadline to submit an application?

    How much funding is available?

    • $1,000,000. The maximum award per recipient is $250,000.

    How many awards does USDA anticipate making?

    • The number of awards will be based on the number of applications received and scoring. Applications will be scored and ranked accordingly. The highest scoring applications will be selected based on funding availability.

    Does RPIC fund just urban and rural planning and land use projects?

    • RPIC was created to fund comprehensive rural placemaking activities. For the definition of rural, the description of placemaking and the grant purpose, see page 21 of the FOA.

    Is there a match required for this grant?

    • Applicants are encouraged to review Part III, Paragraph B of the FOA. Information on cost sharing, matching, and the Innovation Implementation Challenge can be found on page 6 and 7 of the FOA.
    • A minimum 15 percent match of the total cooperative agreement award is required for all applications.
    • If this matching fund requirement is not met, the application will be deemed ineligible.
    • Matching commitments may be made in cash, confirmed funding commitments and/or third-party in-kind contributions as defined in 2 CFR 200.96. that are at least 15 percent of the cooperative agreement amount and committed for a period of not less than the cooperative agreement performance period.
    • Applicants must recruit one or more private, philanthropic and/or public partner(s) to match 15 percent (in cash and/or in-kind contributions) of the applicant’s proposed funding request.
    • Cost sharing/matching must be committed at the time of application submission.
    • Applications must include written verification of commitments of cost sharing or matching support (including both cash and in-kind contributions) from third parties. Cost sharing or matching funds must meet the criteria stated at 2 CFR 200.306 and be valued in accordance with 2 CFR 200.306(d).

    How are match commitments submitted to USDA?

    • Applications must include written verification of commitments of cost sharing or matching support, including both cash and in-kind contributions, from third parties. Cost sharing or matching funds must meet the criteria stated at 2 CFR 200.306 and be valued in accordance with 2 CFR 200.306(d).
    • Commitment letters must be signed by the authorized organizational representative of the contributing organization and the applicant organization, which must include: (i) the name, address, and telephone number of the contributor; (ii) the name of the applicant organization; (iii) the title of the project for which the contribution is made, (iv) the dollar amount of the contribution; and (v) a statement that the contributor commits to furnish the contribution during the cooperative agreement period.
    • Applications without signed written commitments are deemed incomplete and will be ineligible. The value of applicant contributions to the project is established according to Federal cost principles. Applicants should refer to 2 CFR 200.306 for additional guidance on matching funds, in-kind contributions, and allowable costs.
    • Federally recognized tribes and Native American Tribal Organizations; institutions of higher education (including 1862 Land-Grant Institutions, 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, 1994 Land-Grant Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)); nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) IRS status; public bodies, or small private entities meeting the size standards established by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
    • All eligible applicants must demonstrate the capacity to deliver and support multiple rural placemaking planning activities within at least one of the four regions (Region Description found in Part VII). Capacity is defined as previous experience with federal grant administration and demonstrated experience in economic development and placemaking technical assistance.
    • Planning must directly benefit cities or towns with 50,000 residents or less as described by Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act Section 343(a)(13)(A)(i).

    What types of private groups are eligible under the FOA?

    Is the applicant considered to be the community that will receive placemaking technical assistance or is the applicant the technical assistance provider?

    • The applicant is the technical assistant provider. Technical assistance providers can be public or private groups, organizations, or institutions that demonstrate experience and expertise in providing placemaking technical assistance to rural communities.

    Are applicants required to develop a regional plan?

    • No. A placemaking plan may be an output of the technical assistance provided by the applicant; and/or an existing placemaking plan can be strengthened with implementation strategies.

    Are there specific requirements that technical assistance providers must follow to receive funding?

    • Yes. The provider must partner with public, private, philanthropic and community leaders during the placemaking process. Applicants must submit placemaking proposals that includes multijurisdictional or multisectoral planning partnerships that will provide measurable results in helping rural communities create greater social and cultural vitality in rural communities.

    Is an applicant required to cover an entire region or state?

    • No. The only requirement is that the applicant define, in their application, what region their project will serve. See Part VII of the funding notice for the definition of regions.

    When must recipients begin to provide technical assistance to rural communities?

    • October 1, 2020.

    How long are recipients required to provide technical assistance to rural communities?

    • 24 months. Assistance must be provided until September 30, 2022.

    How may funds be used under RPIC?

    • Funds may be used to finance technical assistance for planning and/or implementation activities to support rural placemaking. Recipients are expected to create quality places in rural communities to improve people's social, physical, and economic well-being. The key elements of quality places include, but are not limited to, effective public spaces, broadband capability, transportation options, multiple housing options, preservation of historic structures, and respect of community heritage, arts, culture, and creativity, recreation and green space.

    Can funds be used to purchase materials including public furniture, historic doors, historic windows, exhibit display furniture to help preserve an historic building, structure or residence?

    • No. Funding under RPIC finances technical assistance for planning and/or implementing activities to support rural placemaking. For more information please review page 14 of the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

    Can funds be used finance the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment?

    • No. Funding under RPIC finances technical assistance for planning and/or implementing activities to support rural placemaking. For more information please review page 14 of the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

    Can a portion of funding be used for administration fees such as paying for a grant writer?

    • For more information, please review “Prohibited Costs” on page 14 of the FOA. (Specifically, item j for obligations incurred before the beginning date of the cooperative agreement)

    Can a community be the applicant and use these funds to hire a consultant to help prepare professional plans like engineering studies, comprehensive plans, etc.?

    • For more information, please review “Prohibited Costs” on page 14 of the FOA.

    What is considered a prohibited use of funds?

    • Duplicating services currently provided;
    • Funding a revolving loan fund;
    • Construction;
    • Salaries for positions involved in construction, renovations, rehabilitation, and any oversight of these types of activities; Intermediary preparation of strategic plans for recipients;
    • Funding prostitution, gambling, or any illegal activities;
    • Grants to individuals;
    • Funding a grant where there may be a conflict of interest, or an appearance of a conflict of interest, involving any action by the Agency;
    • Providing assistance to only one individual, organization, or business;
    • Paying obligations incurred before the beginning date without prior Agency approval or after the ending date of the cooperative agreement;
    • Purchasing real estate;
    • Improvement or renovation of the recipient’s office space or for the repair or maintenance of privately-owned vehicles;
    • Any purpose prohibited in 2 CFR part 200 or 400;
    • Using cooperative agreement assistance or matching funds for Individual Development Accounts; and
    • Purchasing vehicles.

    Can applicants mail applications to USDA Rural Development if there is a technical issue with Grants.gov?

    • No. All applications must be submitted using Grants.gov by the deadline. The Agency is not responsible for any technical malfunctions or website problems related to Grants.gov or emailed submissions. The applicant assumes the risk of any delays in application submission through Grants.gov.

    Who can applicants contact if grants.gov is having technological issues?

    How can applicants apply online?

    • To apply via Grants.gov, applicants must follow the Grants.gov system registration requirements to submit applications. USDA recommends applicants review registration instructions at least two weeks before the applicant plans to submit the application.
    • Once the application is submitted via Grants.gov, applicants must send a copy of the submission to RD.Innovation@usda.gov and use “RPIC Application” as the Subject Line.

    How can applicants register on grants.gov?

    • To register in the Grants.gov system, go to www.grants.gov, click “Applicants”, then click “Get Registered.”

    How can applicants make sure all required documents are included in the application prior to submission?

    • All checklists, application materials, and standard forms necessary for submission are included in the Grants.gov application package.

    Can technical assistance providers who serve more than one community submit multiple applications that identify different communities or regions in order to increase my chances for award?

    • No. Applicants may not submit more than one application. However, applicants may identify more than one community that will receive placemaking assistance in the application.

    Will applicants who identify more than one community receive more funding?

    • Funding will be based on scoring criteria. The maximum award amount for any one applicant is $250,000.

    What is “rural placemaking”?

    • Placemaking is a technical assistance, planning process that rural community leaders use to create places where people want to live, work and play. A more comprehensive definition for “placemaking” the purpose of RPIC appears on page 21 of this FOA.

    What does “multijurisdictional” mean?

    • Multijurisdictional means more than one jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to a unit of government or other entity with similar powers, such as a city, county, district, special purpose district, township, town, borough, parish, village, state, Indian tribe, etc.

    What does “multisectoral” mean?

    • Multisectoral means the collaboration between two or more sectors to accomplish goals and achieve outcomes in communities and regions. Sectors are areas such as business, health, education, and/or workforce; or from organization types such as public, private, non-profit, and/or philanthropy.

    What does “substantial involvement” mean as part of the cooperative agreement?

    • Agency staff intends to actively engage in the placemaking process, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to identify tasks where RD staff can provide substantial involvement in the project. If these tasks are not identified, the application will not be eligible for funding.

    What are some examples of substantial involvement?

    • Technical assistance providers who co-host with RD staff to hold joint convening for community members, partners, and stakeholders.
    • Technical assistance providers who co-host with RD staff to provide training on RD programs.

    What is the Optional Innovation Implementation Challenge?

    • Under this optional challenge, applicants may apply to receive up to 10 additional discretionary points (see Part V. B) if their proposal and budget identify seed grants that have been set aside.

    What are the criteria for seed grants?

    • USDA recommends that seed grants be at least $5,000 for each ultimate recipient. Seed grants must be matched by additional external funding to support the community’s project, with no less than 50 percent match. The external funds must be from private, public, philanthropic and/or other federal, state, and local partners.

    How must seed grants be used?

    • The seed grant must be used for plan implementation by funding a new and innovative project identified in the “placemaking plan.” These seed grants are considered small financial awards for the purpose of getting a specific and creative project implemented.

    How might projects be judged for participation in this challenge?

    • Be innovative;
    • Be highlighted in the placemaking plan (see Part I. C);
    • Have a probability of success and sustainability, with identified outcomes to be achieved; and
    • Leverage partnerships and provide letters of commitments.
  • For more information, contact Angela.Callie@usda.gov or call (202) 568-9738.