Rural Development: Key Priorities

Rural Development Priorities

USDA Rural Development is incorporating key Biden-Harris Administration priorities into program scoring and associated funding announcements beginning with the fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding announcements. Many USDA Rural Development grant and technical assistance programs have the potential to support rural communities’ economic development effort and maintain and improve a healthy rural population by leveraging funding assistance to key Administration priorities.

These priorities build upon RD’s continuing commitment to serving traditionally underserved and economically challenged rural areas, such as Persistent Poverty Counties. Many RD programs will have a funding set-aside for areas of persistent poverty. These programs will be identified on the Priority Points Program Chart.

USDA Rural Development has identified three key priorities that will provide a pathway to facilitate economic growth for all rural Americans and is encouraging Applicants to consider projects that will advance the following three key priorities.

  1. Assist Rural communities recover economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly disadvantaged communities.
  2. Ensuring all rural residents have equitable access to RD programs and benefits from RD funded projects.
  3. Reduce climate pollution and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural communities.

We will be incorporating these priorities into the work we do across the Agency and with our partners to incentivize strategic engagement and investment.

 

What are Priority Points?

Priority Points, also referred to as discretionary points, are additional points added to an established scoring criterion that USDA Rural Development uses to help determine which projects qualify for funding. Awarding extra points (i.e. priority points) raises a project’s score, which in turn improves the chances of a project being scored high enough to warrant a funding award. The flexibility related to these kinds of points varies, depending on regulations language.

How do I know what applications will have these priority points?

Priority points will be awarded in key RD programs to projects that support these priorities. These priority points will be incorporated into funding announcements and published in the Federal Register. For the list of programs that include priority points download the Priority Points Program Chart.

Does my project qualify for priority points?

To help with your understanding of the Priorities and who will qualify we offer the following information:

Covid-19 Impacts

Assisting Rural communities recover economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly disadvantaged communities.

Priority Points: Applicants receive priority points if the project is located in or serving one of the top 10% of counties or county equivalents based upon county risk score in the United States. Please use the COVID-19 Economic Risk Assessment Dashboard to determine if the county your project serves qualifies for priority points. The top 10% of counties or county equivalents are highlighted in red on the dashboard.

For additional information on data sources used for this priority determination, please download the Data Sources for Rural Development Priorities document.

Note: US Territories would obtain points by using local data regarding how COVID-19 has impacted proposed project area.

Equity

Ensuring all rural residents have equitable access to RD programs and benefits from RD funded projects.

This priority aligns with the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government 

Priority Points: Applicant receives priority points if the project is located in or serving a community with score 0.75 or above on the CDC Social Vulnerability Index. Please use Social Vulnerability Index Map to look up map or list to determine if your project qualifies for priority points.

For additional information on data sources used for this priority determination, please download the Data Sources for Rural Development Priorities document.

Note: US Territories would obtain points by using local data to demonstrate the social vulnerability of the proposed project area.

    Map Helpful hints:

    • The optimal web browsers for this map is Microsoft Edge or Chrome. This map will not function properly in Internet Explorer.
    • To see county and county names zoom into the location or put the name of the location into the search bar and they will then be visible.

    Climate Impacts

    Reducing climate pollution and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural communities.

    Priority will be given to proposals that address climate crisis through projects that:

    • reduce climate pollution; promote energy efficiency and clean transportation; increase renewable energy production; revitalize recreation economies and the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities; increase resilience to the impacts of climate change; protect the public; and conserve our lands, waters, and biodiversity or
    • spur well-paying union jobs and economic growth, especially through innovation, commercialization, deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure or
    • advance environmental justice in historically marginalized and other communities overburdened by pollution where economic hurdles include underinvestment in housing, transportation, water, wastewater, and clean energy infrastructure, as well as workforce development and health care needs.

    Priority Points: Applicant can receive priority points through one of two methods listed below:

    • Applicants will receive points if the project is located in or serving coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities whose economic well-being ranks in the most distressed tier of the Distressed Communities Index. The Distressed Communities Index provides a score between 1-100 for every community at the zip code level. The most distressed tier of the index are those communities with a score over 80. Please use look up map or list to determine if your project qualifies for priority points.
    • Applicants will receive points by demonstrating through written narrative how proposed climate-impact projects improve the livelihoods of community residents and meet pollution mitigation or clean energy goals.

    For additional information on data sources used for this priority determination, please download the Data Sources for Rural Development Priorities document.

    Note: US Territories would obtain points for the quantitative factor by using local data to demonstrate that the proposed project area has a high concentration of fossil fuel-employment. Under the Distressed Communities Index, all US Territories are considered Distressed Communities.

    Map Helpful hints:

    • The optimal web browsers for this map is Microsoft Edge or Chrome. This map will not function properly in Internet Explorer.
    • To see county and county names zoom into the location or put the name of the location into the search bar and they will then be visible.

    If you have questions about determining qualification for priority points, please email RD.Innovation.Data@usda.gov