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Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge

Program Status: Closed
Application Deadline: July 26, 2021

Overview

USDA is making available up to $3 million in cooperative agreements under the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC) for eligible entities to help them provide planning support, technical assistance and training to foster placemaking activities in rural communities.

Qualified entities can use the funds to help rural communities create plans to enhance capacity for broadband access; preserve cultural and historic structures; and support the development of transportation, housing, and recreational spaces.

For more information, contact RD.RPIC@usda.gov.

Factsheet Federal Register NoticeFAQsVirtual EventsSubscribe to Updates

What is Rural Placemaking?

Under RPIC, placemaking is defined as a collaborative process among public, private, philanthropic and community partners to strategically improve the social, cultural, and economic structure of a community. This work is based on a sense of place with qualitative and quantitative outcomes.

How to Apply

Application Form and Checklist

Application Form Application Checklist

Who May Apply?

The Agency seeks to partner with organizations located in the northeastern, southern, midwestern and western regions of the United States. All eligible applicants must demonstrate experience in administering federal grants and providing economic development and placemaking technical assistance in one of the four regions. Eligible entities are:

  • 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;
  • Nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) IRS status;
  • Public bodies; or
  • Small private entities that meet the size standards established by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

What kind of funding is available?

  • USDA is making available up to $3 million in grants.
  • The maximum grant award is $250,000.

How may funds be used?

  • Qualified entities may use the funds to provide technical assistance and training to help rural communities develop actionable placemaking plans, convene partners and identify community needs.
  • USDA encourages applications that support communities designated as economically distressed and/or planning projects that enhance capacity for broadband infrastructure and deployment.
  • The assistance must be provided for up to two years.

Virtual Events

Webinar

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC) Notice of Funds Webinar
Webinar Recording

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. How much funding is available?

      Up to $3,000,000 is available for cooperative agreement funding. The maximum award per recipient is $250,000.

    2. How many awards does USDA anticipate making?

      The number of awards will be based on the number of applications received, scoring and the requested grant funds of the highest-ranking applications. The highest scoring application in each of the four regions (e.g. Northeast, South, Midwest, West) will be selected first. The remaining applications, regardless of region, will be selected starting with the highest scoring application, until all remaining available funds are exhausted.

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

      There is neither an advantage nor disadvantage to the number of communities served. Funding will be based on the scoring criteria as described in Part VI; Section B “Scoring Process”; and the “Review and Selection Process” described in Part VI; Section C of the NOFA. The maximum award amount for any one applicant is $250,000.

    1. What does “rural placemaking” mean under RPIC?

      Placemaking means a process involving public, private, philanthropic and community partners working together to strategically improve the social, cultural, and economic structure of a community. This work is based on a sense of place with qualitative and quantitative outcomes.

      For the purpose of this notice, placemaking is the process of creating quality places where people want to live, work, and play. Ultimately, the goal is to create greater social and cultural vitality in rural communities aimed at improving people's social, physical, and economic well-being. The key elements of quality places include, but are not limited to: a mix of uses; effective public spaces; broadband capability; transportation options; multiple housing options; preservation of historic structure; and respect of community heritage, arts, culture, creativity, recreation, and green space.

    2. What does “multi-jurisdictional” mean?

      Multi-jurisdictional 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.

    3. What does “multi-sectoral” mean?

      Multi-sectoral means intentional collaboration between two or more sectors (e.g., utility, health, housing, community services, etc.) to accomplish goals and achieve outcomes in communities and regions.

    4. 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.

    5. What are some examples of substantial involvement?

      Technical assistance providers may co-host with RD staff to hold joint convenings for community members, partners, and stakeholders. Technical assistance providers should invite RD staff to community meetings and keep them informed of progress under the workplan.

      Joint collaboration or participation between RD and the recipient in carrying out the work plan, including collecting data, making presentations, literature reviews, training development, conducting research, drafting papers and reports, and providing technical assistance. RD may provide training to the recipient’s personnel on RD programs.

  • Public body means any legislative, executive or judicial body, agency, office, department, authority, post, commission, committee, institution, board or political subdivision created by law to exercise some sovereign power or to perform some governmental duty, and empowered by law to undertake the activities described.

    Public body means any legislative, executive or judicial body, agency, office, department, authority, post, commission, committee, institution, board or political subdivision created by law to exercise some sovereign power or to perform some governmental duty, and empowered by law to undertake the activities described.

    1. What types of private groups or entities are eligible under the NOFA?

      Small private entities who meet the size standards established by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are eligible; they must demonstrate the capacity to deliver and support rural placemaking planning activities within at least one of the four regions, and have previous experience with federal grant administration and demonstrate experience in economic development and placemaking technical assistance.

    2. 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 assistance provider and will need to demonstrate they meet the capacity requirements of delivering placemaking technical assistance.

      Technical assistance providers can be public or private groups, organizations, or Institutions of Higher Learning that demonstrate experience and expertise in providing placemaking technical assistance to rural communities and have previous experience with federal grant administration and demonstrate experience in economic development and placemaking technical assistance.

    3. Does RPIC fund urban and rural planning and land use projects?

      RPIC was created to fund comprehensive rural placemaking activities for rural communities. RPIC will use the Rural Business Service’s Rural Area definition as outlined in Section 343(a)(13)(A)(i) of the Agricultural Act of 1961 & Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act which defines "rural area" as any area other than (1) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants and (2)any rural urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such city or town described in subparagraph (1) above.

    4. Are applicants required to develop a regional plan, such as a Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)?

      RPIC is a technical assistance and planning process for qualified entities to support rural community leaders to create places where people want to live, work and play. This initiative will help provide planning support, technical assistance and training to communities to foster placemaking activities in rural communities.

      The applicant must provide assistance so that a placemaking plan is developed with implementation strategies. The placemaking plan may be an output of the technical assistance provided by the applicant; and/or an existing placemaking plan can be strengthened.

      The applicant’s proposal must identify a detailed description of the region(s) served (e.g. Northeast, South, Midwest, West); and describe if the plan is multi-sectorial or multi-jurisdictional.

    5. Is an applicant required to cover an entire region (e.g. Midwest Region or state)?

      No. The applicant does not need to serve an entire region. See Part III of the NOFA for the definition of region. The requirement is for the applicant to identify, in their application, the geographic locations their project will serve. Part VI of the funding notice requires the applicant to identify in what primary region they will be serving; this should be described in the Executive Summary of the proposal.

    6. How may funds be used under RPIC?

      Funds are to be used to finance technical assistance providers to deliver planning support, training and to support the implementation activities to rural communities in support of rural placemaking. For more information refer to the NOFA, Part I, Section B.

    7. 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, and mentoring activities associated for planning through implementation actions associated with rural placemaking. See unallowable costs under 2 CFR Part 200.

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

      No. Funding under RPIC finances technical assistance, and mentoring activities associated for planning through implementation actions associated with rural placemaking. See unallowable costs under 2 CFR Part 200.

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

      No. For more information, please review Part IV. Section E. Ineligible Project Costs and 2 CFR Part 200 and 400 for list of unallowable costs. Funds cannot be used for grant writing services or any cost incurred in advance of the award date of the Cooperative Agreement.

    10. Can the applicant use these RPIC funds to subcontract with or hire a consultant to perform the majority of tasks for planning and/or implementation?

      No. For more information, please review Part IV. Section E. Ineligible Project Costs and 2 CFR Part 200 and 400 for list of unallowable costs. The award will be made through a Cooperative Agreement, the awardees are referred to as Cooperators. The Cooperative Agreement requires substantial involvement and collaboration between RD Staff and the Cooperator. The Cooperators are expected to provide the majority of technical assistance and project development. If the Cooperator were to hire a consultant to do the majority of the work, the result is that there would be no “cooperative” relationship between the hired consultant and RD staff.

    11. What is considered a prohibited use of funds?

      In addition to costs identified as unallowable by 2 CFR Part 200 or 400, the following costs are prohibited for this program. Neither award funds nor matching funds can be used to pay for the following types of expenses (this is not a comprehensive list of unallowable costs, see 2 CFR Part 200). Here are some types of unallowable costs. Under Technical Assistance funding - (this is not a comprehensive list of unallowable costs, see 2 CFR Part 200).

      • Construction (in any form).
      • Intermediary preparation of strategic plans for recipients (when it is the majority/primary cost in the budget).
      • 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.
      • Purchasing real estate.
    12. If you have no prior experience in administering a federal grant, how does one become eligible?

      Someone in the organization must have had experience in federal grants management for the applicant to be eligible to apply for RPIC. The entity itself does not need to have had a previous federal award. We are looking for the applicant to demonstrate that the staff within the organization has had some level of experience with federal grants administration.

    13. Must the lead applicant entity itself have previously administered a federal grant, or might that requirement be met by staff or team members who have federal grant admin experience while working for other organizations?

      Someone in the organization must have had experience in federal grants management for the applicant to be eligible to apply for RPIC. The entity itself does not need to have had a previous federal award. We are looking for the applicant to demonstrate that the staff within the organization has had some level of experience with federal grants administration.

    14. How much experience do you require for placemaking?
      • To meet the eligibility requirements under capacity – the applicant need only demonstrate that they have some level of experience in placemaking, economic development, and past experience in federal grant administration. The applicant will be scored on their Organizational Capacity and Qualifications under Part VI Section B (3) (c) of the NOFA.
    15. Can you clarify on size requirement "any rural urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such city or town described in subparagraph (1) above?

      A good strategy to understand if your community or communities are in a rural area is to visit: https://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/eligibility/welcomeAction.do?pageAction=sfpd

      • At this website, click on the box for “Rural Business” on top line. It will take you to the Rural Business Service property eligibility site.
      • Click on the top line – covering programs for: B&I Guar, RBEG, RBOG etc.
      • Once you get to the page, where you see the map of the United States, enter an exact address in the community you want to serve.
      • The map will tell you if the address falls in an eligible area for service under the guidelines for the rural definition.
      • The left-hand side of the map lets you zoom in and out on the map, allowing you to see the larger area and communities that are in or outside the eligible areas meeting the rural definition.
    16. If one of the partners is a federal agency, could their experience with administering federal partnerships and grants count towards that experience or does it need to come directly from the staff at the requesting entity?

      Someone in the organization must have had experience in federal grants management for the applicant to be eligible to apply for RPIC. The entity itself does not need to have previous federal grants awarded to it. We are looking for the applicant to demonstrate that the staff within the organization has some level of experience with federal grants administration.

    17. How does RPIC define "public bodies" as applicants? In other words, can the applicant be a Joint Powers Authority, a city, or other public agency?

      Public body means any legislative, executive or judicial body, agency, office, department, authority, post, commission, committee, institution, board or political subdivision created by law to exercise some sovereign power or to perform some governmental duty, and empowered by law to undertake the activities described.

    18. Have you awarded this grant before?

      Yes. Information about previous awards can be found at the bottom of this webpage.

    19. Are consultants eligible to apply?

      Yes, consultants are encouraged to apply if the consultant has the experience in placemaking, and economic development. However, since placemaking is a collaborative process, applicants should not propose that consultants perform the majority of the work that is identified in the workplan and budget.

    20. How about nuclear communities in rural areas?

      There is no restriction for “nuclear communities” if they are in eligible rural areas.

    21. Is this grant only open to broadband, needs or distressed communities?

      No. The only requirement for eligibility is that it serves a rural area as defined in Part III of the NOFA and cover a multi-sectorial or multijurisdictional area – also defined in Part III of the NOFA. However, Broadband Planning for Infrastructure, Deployment and/or Access is a scoring element under Part VI, Section B (3) (e) (ii)

    22. My local village’s chamber of commerce is interested in this grant and is a federally-recognized non-profit, but not a 501c3. Are they eligible? What if they partner with the village itself and a local university?

      We understand that many Chambers are organized as 501c (6)’s – this is not an eligible entity for the purpose of RPIC even though it is a non-profit. A 501c (6) is allowed to engage in unlimited amounts of lobbying, legislative and executive advocacy activity, which in some cases could be in conflict for working with a Federal granting organization. In the example provided, the university or the village could be the applicant and the chamber could be the partner for the RPIC application

    23. Can a town/city apply with a county or a non-profit?

      Yes, however the primary applicant would need to meet the eligibility criteria for capacity. Capacity is defined in Part III of the NOFA.

  • Applicant matching funds must be included in the proposal’s budget justification. For matching funds offered by project partners, a separate Matching Funds Letter is required for each cash and/or in-kind match contribution. Matching Funds Letters must be signed by the authorized organizational representative of the contributing organization and the applicant organization, which must include:

    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 may recruit one or more private, philanthropic, and/or eligible public partner(s) to provide the matching 15 percent of the applicant’s proposed federal funding request (i.e., the federal grant amount requested), or the applicant can provide the full match as their own CASH contribution. It is permissible to provide a combination of third party in-kind contribution (as defined in 2 CFR §200.96) from a partner and CASH contribution from the applicant, but it is not permissible for the applicant to provide their own in-kind contribution as part of the match combination. If the applicant is going to provide their own match contribution, that match must be documented as a CASH contribution.

    1. Is there a match required for this grant?

      Yes. A minimum 15 percent match of the federal grant amount requested for the cooperative agreement award is required for all applications. Matching commitments may be made in cash by the applying organization, or a combination of cash and confirmed funding commitments with third-party in-kind contributions. This minimum match of at least 15 percent of the federal amount requested must be committed for a period of not less than the cooperative agreement performance period. Cost sharing/matching must be committed at the time of application submission.

    2. How are match commitments submitted to USDA?

      Verification of Matching Funds: The Matching Funds Letter must be signed by the donating organization’s authorized representative on the organization’s letterhead and must identify the amount of matching funds or in-kind services/goods, the time period during which matching contribution will be available, and the source of the funds, as applicable (e.g. cash on hand, etc.)

      • If providing an in-kind match, the third-party contributor must provide details on how those in-kind sources will be identified and tracked by the contributor.
      • The contributor must also attach/stipulate the value of each of the goods or services (including the indirect/direct costs) being offered.
      • If using calculated hours for estimating any in-kind service, the contributor must also provide how the value was arrived at for calculating the total cost for the in-kind match and associated personnel, as applicable.

      Applicant matching funds must be included in the proposal’s budget justification. For matching funds offered by project partners, a separate Matching Funds Letter is required for each cash and/or in-kind match contribution. Matching Funds Letters must be signed by the authorized organizational representative of the contributing organization and the applicant organization, which must include:

      • the name, address, and telephone number of the contributor;
      • the name of the applicant organization;
      • the title of the project for which the contribution is made;
      • the dollar amount of the contribution; and
      • 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.

    3. Where can I find more information on cost sharing and matching funds?

      Additional details about cost sharing or matching funds/contributions are located at 2 CFR §200.306.

    4. The NOFA states cash contribution by the submitting organization. Would that include covering part of staff time, which gets set up in a special cost share account? How do you define in-kind?

      Salaries dedicated to RPIC are not considered cash match.

    5. I am in the process of starting a nonprofit dedicated to placemaking in my area. Can this grant help pay for salaries? Can RPIC funds be used to hire staff, pay salary, and fringe for the applicant/cooperator/TA provider, as long as this staff is dedicated to the RPIC planning process?

      Yes, funds can be used to pay for employee work, that work must be allocable to RPIC work tasks as outlined in the Workplan and Budget Narrative. The challenge might be in scoring if you are trying to hire employees to gain organizational capacity or experience points by hiring personnel that you do not yet have on staff.

    6. Can any Federal funds be used as match? For example HUD capacity building grants passed through to rural partners to support the placemaking efforts?

      Cash match cannot come from other federal grant funds. Simply put, “match” is ANY non-federal share that the grantee or the grantee's partners will contribute to accomplish the purposes of the cooperative agreement.

    7. We have a Hall of Fame Museum called the Catskill Fly Fishing Center that needs a new bridge for access. Can this grant be used for that?

      No. this would be deemed an ineligible purpose – RPIC is for technical assistance.

    8. Are there any restrictions on using funds to plan in areas that are in flood zones?

      The purpose of RPIC is to provide the placemaking process applicants are expected to involve public, private, philanthropic, and community partners; this work is to be based on a sense of place with qualitative and quantitative outcomes. Therefore, if you were to be providing planning around flood zones it would need to be tied to placemaking as defined in Part III of the NOFA – and not simply for flood mitigation purposes.

    9. Can funds be used to trademark?

      Since trademarking is a type of intellectual property consisting of a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from it might not be an allowable cost under this grant. However, creating a community or regional branding may be an allowable cost if it could be directly tied to placemaking.

    10. The Federal Register states: "(4) The applicant may not use their administrative overhead or indirect costs as any part of their matching funds contribution. Using an indirect cost rate or administrative overhead for a matching fund contribution will be deemed as an ineligible use of funds for the cooperative agreement." Does this mean that applicants may not use their federally negotiated indirect rate as match, but would we be permitted to use an indirect rate of 10% as cash match as the allowable recovered indirect rate to the grant is 10%?

      No. The only match the applicant may submit is a CASH match. The Applicant must demonstrate the source of the cash match, such as providing a bank statement, or letter from authorized personnel describing the source and availability of the match. See NOFA, Part IV, Section C (3)

    1. 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. The applicant assumes the risk of any delays in application submission through Grants.gov. If issues are encountered with Grants.gov, please contact the Grants.gov help desk at (800) 518-4726 or support@grants.gov.

    2. How can applicants apply online?

      To apply on 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.

    3. 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.”

    4. 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 https://www.grants.gov/, application package.

    5. 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.

  • This part of the application will be scored ONLY if the applicant chooses to participate in the Innovation Seed Grant. There are two oOptions:, one where they may score up to an additional 5 points, and another where they may score up to 10 points.

    1. What is the Optional Innovation Seed Grant?

      This is an optional criterion for Applicants; and will be scored only if their proposal and budget provides for a system of funding Innovation Seed Grants. The seed grants are to be utilized to fund new and innovative projects highlighted in the placemaking plan. These seed grants are considered small financial awards for the purpose of getting a specific project implemented in the placemaking plan. The applicant can set aside, from the applicant’s award, funds for an Innovation Seed Grant up to a maximum of 10 percent. For more detailed information see NOFA, Part VI, Section B Sub-Section (g).

    2. How will this criterion for the Optional Seed Grants be evaluated?

      The applicant should provide a brief narrative of how the Innovation Seed Grant will be developed, administered, and implemented. See NOFA, Part VI, Section B, Sub-Section (g) (iii) for details.

    3. How must seed grants be used?

      The seed grant must be used for placemaking plan implementation by funding a new and innovative project identified in the “placemaking plan” under Option 1 or Option 2 of the scoring criteria.

      These seed grants are considered small financial awards for the purpose of getting a specific project implemented in the placemaking plan. For more detailed information see NOFA, Part VI, Section B, Sub-Section (g).

    4. Can you further explain the maximum funding available from USDA for both seed and other options?

      The maximum RPIC federal grant request under RPIC is $250,000. The maximum funds that can be set-aside from RPIC funds for the Optional Seed Grant is 10 percent. Therefore, the awardee, or Cooperator may take no more than 10 percent of the RPIC awarded money and use it for Seed Grant funding.

      • For example, if awarded $250,000 in RPIC funds, no more than $25,000 may be set-aside from award funds for the purpose of the Optional Innovation Seed Grant.
    5. What Is the match for the seed grants, is it like the RPIC's match; what is the maximum for each option, and what is the minimum match percent for those?

      The NOFA states “the maximum funds that can be set-aside for this purpose is 10%, it is referring to the amount of RPIC funds that can be set-aside for the “optional seed grant.”

      • The Cooperator may take no more than 10% of the RPIC awarded money and use it for Seed Grant funding. Therefore, if awarded $250,000 in RPIC funds – no more than 10% of the total award funds could be set aside; which amount to $25,000 of those funds for Seed Grant money.
      • Then, from that $25,000 no more than $5000 can be distributed to any single awardee from RPIC funds, which must have a 50% match from other outside funds – which would mean that the seed grant to the recipient would be at least $10,000. The Cooperator may scale the award to be larger (using their own funds and/or partner funds) –
      • BUT no more than $5000 can come from RPIC award money to a single recipient.
    6. Is there a separate application for the Seed Grant?

      This is part of your application if you choose to include the “Optional Seed Grant” in your proposal. It will only be scored if you choose to include it as part of your proposal. See Part VI, Section B. (3) (g) Optional Innovation Seed Grant – you will have the option to provide information on either Option 1 or Option 2 for this seed grant for scoring.

    7. Is the seed grant is a sub-award to the awardee but specifically for one piece of the project, or a grant to be awarded to community members for a needed service in the community where RPIC is being implemented?

      The seeds grants are to be used to fund new and innovative projects highlighted in the placemaking plan. These seed grants are considered small financial awards for the purpose of getting specific projects implemented in the plan. Therefore, they cannot be used by RPIC awardee. The applicant is to design a method on how these grants are to be awarded to recipients who will implement projects outlined in the placemaking plan.

    8. Could you explain the scoring for seed grants? Based on the slide it seems this section is worth 10 pts; however, if it's optional how does the scoring work?
      • If the applicant chooses to participate in the Optional Innovation Seed Grant, they can choose to be scored on either Option 1 or Option 2.
        • Option 1 will be scored 0-5 points
        • Option 2 will be scored 0-10 points
        • The applicant can choose either one or the other, but not both options for this criterion
      • Does the seed grant require a separate match? What percentage match for the seed grant?

        If applicant decides to participate in the Optional Innovation Seed Grant, a separate funding commitment match is required. See Part VI, Section B. (3) (g)

        • “Innovation Seed Grant must be matched by no less than 50% match with additional external funding to support the community’s project. The external funds can be from public, private, philanthropic, or other federal, state, and local partners”
        • “The applicant MUST provide documentation of third-party matching funds contribution. These matching funds are separate from the verified matched funds required for the RPIC application. The Matching Funds Letter for the seed grants MUST specifically state that the funds are being allocated to the Innovation Seed Grant. The letter may be conditioned to the applicant receiving the award. (Failing to provide verification of match disqualifies the applicant from this optional scoring criteria).”
    1. Do I need to know which RD staff will be involved in the workplan – and/or do I need letters from RD saying they support my workplan with their involvement? Will you please explain this paragraph in the NOFA?

      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.

      This is only an outline of how you would like to involve RD staff in the state(s) you are working in with the communities you are serving. You do not need to have any letters of support or commitment before making application from the RD state, or staff. We recognize this relationship will be or could be a developed relationship after the award.

      If you were to receive an award and become a Cooperator, after closing we would sit down with the RD State Director, and their staff and discuss who would be the point(s) of contact from RD for the Agreement. That may be one or multiple people. At that time, we would make any adjustments to your workplan based on the RD staff availability.

      We understand this is about “cooperation” neither party supervises the other – therefore we recognize there will need to be some adjustments made as the work is developed. To write or develop your Workplan, you should describe how you envision involving RD staff and how you would work cooperatively in involving them in working with the community or communities appropriately.

    2. Once application is approved and criteria met, is there continued involvement from USDA?

      The award is through a Cooperative Agreement and the nature of a cooperative agreement requires continued collaboration between the awardee (called the cooperator) and USDA RD staff. The NOFA requires that the Workplan outline where RD staff would be involved. See Part IV Section B – Eligible Project

      “The proposed project must include a component that allows for active participation by the Cooperator and substantial involvement by RD in the majority of specified tasks outlined in the applicant’s project proposal. Examples of measurable substantial involvement include, but are not limited to, the following: joint convenings of community members, partners, and stakeholders; joint delivery of training for RD programs; and the development of training sessions and outreach materials. It is the intent of this project to engage RD staff in the placemaking process, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to identify specific tasks where RD staff can provide measurable, substantial involvement in the project. If such tasks are not identified, the application will not be eligible for funding.”

    1. What advice would you give a person on where to start who owns a small business and/or a person who has never applied a grant?

      We encourage you to read and understand the requirements under the NOFA, if you do not meet the eligibility or capacity requirements – those would be the first steps to acquire those requirements for applying for future funding opportunities.

    2. Do we need to have established relationships with philanthropic partners, or can we be working on building them?

      Part of the scoring requirements under Part VI relates to partnerships – it is not a requirement for eligibility to “have” established philanthropic relationships to apply. The applicant will however be scored on these or other relationships, and how they will engage with new partners.

    3. Could a successful placemaking plan focus on one element of livability, or should it include all of the elements?

      USDA is not prescriptive on how the applicants develop their workplan, the plans will be scored on the concepts of RPIC as described in the NOFA for placemaking under the idea of live-work-play. How you address this under the element of “livability” is up to you as the applicant. If your project is limited to only one community, you will need to address how more than one sector is being addressed as well.

    4. Is including broadband a must in a successful proposal?

      No, however, you should be aware there is a scoring component to address “Broadband Planning for Infrastructure, Deployment and/or Access”. You may want to focus more on Economically Distressed Communities under this Scoring criterion – but providing information that addresses Broadband planning, is NOT a requirement for eligibility.

    5. What if an applicant has experience in elements of placemaking (e.g. outdoor recreation space development) but not the full spectrum of all elements of placemaking?

      This may enable your application to meet the eligibility criterion, however, scoring might be impacted. You should review Part VI Section B (3) (c) “Organizational Capacity & Qualifications” to determine scoring potential.

    6. Can a partnership/venture between a university and small business qualify as an applicant?

      There is not enough information provided to make a determination regarding eligibility. More detail can be provided in one of the upcoming “Office Hours” sessions and we can render a determination at that time.

    7. Are development/design plans for Anchor Buildings in rural areas eligible if the building can be tied to the communities placemaking infrastructure?

      The purpose of RPIC is to develop a Placemaking Plan form the technical assistance of placemaking activities. The objective of RPIC is not to pay for the design plans. However, one objective in the placemaking process could be to create a goal that seeks funding for those design plans among other elements in the Placemaking project.

    8. Can we think about particular populations or areas within a jurisdiction (i.e. predominately African American communities, islands, etc.), or does the project need to widely benefit the entire rural community?

      It is an eligibility criterion under: Part IV Section B Eligible Project: The project must also directly benefit a rural area. All ultimate beneficiaries and/or subrecipients must be located in rural areas, and any activities or tasks must occur in rural areas. After you meet this criterion you can then focus on specific populations within the rural areas.

    9. If the application covers different geographies/communities, is the expectation that all application materials keep information separate for the different communities (budget, etc.)?

      Budget information can be aggregated for all communities, however, the overall proposal should identify each of the communities to be served under RPIC. Whether or not the tasks and timeline, for the communities, are identified separately or in aggregate the work plan should be clear and concise.

    10. If a 501c3 is the applicant, can they bring in two projects within the same application that are in different geographic areas that are working under the same general framework for the placemaking technical assistance (convening, product, etc.)? In each geographic location the project would be multi-jurisdictional (2 - 3) and multi-sector (2 - 3).

      Theoretically, this is possible, however, depending on how these projects meet the criterion for placemaking and other elements, the scoring may be impacted. Overall, it would depend on what geographic areas are being referred to. i.e.: a community in the northeast and a community in the west. We would need more information to better assess the situation.

    11. Who defines placemaking technical assistance? Is this a specific type of assistance defined or can we describe what that means to us as the applicant?

      The NOFA defines placemaking under RPIC – see Part III for the definition of Placemaking, and Placemaking Plan. Placemaking means a process involving public, private, philanthropic and community partners working together to strategically improve the social, cultural, and economic structure of a community. This work is based on a sense of place with qualitative and quantitative outcomes. Placemaking Plan means a written document that describes the strategic plan for the community to implement the goals and objectives identified through the placemaking planning process.

    12. Do you work with communities that are considering becoming Main Street Communities, or is that a conflict? Seems like they (Main Street) would be a cooperator?

      Any applicant who meets the Eligibility Criteria is welcome to apply for RPIC.

    13. How important is the implementation component? Obviously technical assistance and planning is critical. But as it relates to implementation support, are you looking for applicants to assist with implementing the plans? or are you looking for the applicants to provide resources, training and accountability to ensure that the jurisdiction implements the plans?

      The planning and implementation are both seen as critical to placemaking. First is for the technical assistance provider (Cooperator) to help and train the community in the process of planning and capacity development in developing actionable plans. That written plans are developed with full community participation. Second, that the technical assistance provider (Cooperator) mentors or leads the communities on how to bring the plans to reality and help them understand how to seek funds for the projects listed in the plans. To help them understand the process for capital stacking and how to seek funding for projects, and how to make projects sustainable.

    14. What evidence is needed to demonstrate that our community is an economically distressed community, especially since Covid-19?

      The NOFA provides a tool you may use - The Distressed Communities Index (DCI) is considered a good tool for identifying economically distressed communities. https://ruraldevelopment.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=06a26a91d074426d944d22715a90311e

      You may select other community data that you wish to use – you just need to provide us the context/platform you will be using and how you will be tracking this data throughout the performance period.

    15. We contract with (and collaborate with) many artists to complete technical assistance projects. Would these be actually considered consultants when they are the heart of the way we deliver programming?

      It depends on whether or not these artists would be recipients of award funds for consulting services and the nature of the services they are providing. We cannot determine the correct response because there is no information regarding placemaking in the question and whether or not the artists would be providing the majority of the technical assistance.

    16. We are a wireless telecommunications company who has extensive experience in the North east NH, VT, ME. We have not had any federal grants, would this be a nonstarter for us., I can tell you that a 25K seed grant does not meet any type of system development.

      If no one within the organization has experience administering a federal grant, then the company would not be eligible to apply.

    17. Our region hasn't received a federal grant for many years, let alone administered one. This condition reinforces dominance of larger, more sophisticated, and better funded to start with institutions. Any chance of liberality on this discriminatory requirement?

      The NOFA does not indicate a time requirement regarding when the federal grant administration needed to occur. However, someone within the organization would have to demonstrate that they are experienced and familiar with uniform federal grant administration principals.

    18. In the multi-jurisdictional definition, do all of the jurisdictions need to be rural? Or can most of the counties, for example, be rural with one metro county in the mix based on a regional boundary?

      All communities to be served must be rural - -see Part IV Section B Eligible Project: “The project must also directly benefit a rural area. All ultimate beneficiaries and/or subrecipients must be located in rural areas, and any activities or tasks must occur in rural areas.

    19. Do the planning processes need to take place in the economically distressed area to get the full points in the scoring? Or is it enough if we invite participants in adjacent counties that will be impacted by the proposed project and meet the USDA definition of economically distressed? Also, the project I have in mind is with a tribe without a reservation. They, as a population, would likely be considered "economically distressed." The Tribal members, however, live dispersed across several counties. Further clarification on "economically distressed" would be appreciated.

      RPIC is a placemaking initiative, therefore, a place must be identified. While consideration is given in the scoring elements to distressed and underserved communities, RPIC must serve a geographic location rather than a population.

    20. We run a circuit rider planner program where we help communities develop Comprehensive Plans. Many of these plans have placemaking components. Would helping communities with comprehensive plans count under this NOFA?

      First you would have to demonstrate how this help is in support of “placemaking.” Seconding how proposal “supports the delivery of technical assistance and training in visioning, planning, and assisting communities to implement placemaking efforts in rural communities.” Also, how will you be supporting the Implementation part of the RPIC requirements.

    21. Is it correct that state or other federal agencies can be cooperators but not applicants?

      Federal agencies cannot apply for RPIC. A state agency may apply if they demonstrate capacity under eligibility requirements

      • RPIC starts with an Applicant
      • A successful applicant gets an award – meaning they are awarded a Cooperative Agreement – they become a “Cooperator”
      • An awardee is a “Cooperator”
    22. Do winning proposals spend funds primarily on _planning processes_ for Placemaking plans, or for enacting key placemaking initiatives; i.e. is this grant to convene partners around shared goals, or to enact a community's already stated goals?

      The NOFA stipulates: “Applicants for RPIC should be prepared to develop, be in the process of developing, or have developed a placemaking plan in partnership with public, private, or philanthropic partners with the focus on local or regional revitalization towards economic vitality and quality of life impacts. The plans should identify potential projects that can be funded through RD programs and other federal, state, local or private sector resources. Placemaking plans developed through this funding opportunity should focus on one or more of the Quality of Life indicators as defined in Part III.”

    23. Do we have to have the communities solidified prior to applying? Is there penalty in points if we do not?

      The communities must be identified in the proposal

Resources

Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge | PDF | Spanish

Past Recipients

In 2020, USDA partnered with organizations across the four regions of the United States. Here’s what they’re doing to create quality places: