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Agriculture

PA Department of Ag Accepting Proposals for Wine, Brewed Beverage Grant Programs
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is accepting proposals for the Wine Marketing and Research Grant and Malt and Brewed Beverage Grant programs. Up to $2 million in funding is available for the grant programs to support projects to increase sales, quality and production of Pennsylvania wine, beer and cider. The Department of Agriculture's Wine Marketing and Research Board and Malt and Brewed Beverage Board will review and recommend projects for funding by the PA Liquor Control Board. Detailed guidelines and instructions for the Wine Marketing and Research Grant program and Malt and Brewed Beverage Grant program are in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. One-page concept papers outlining the activities involved in each funded project are due February 11. Proposals should be submitted to RA-AGCommodities@pa.gov. More information on grants and initiatives to protect and grow Pennsylvania agriculture are also available on the department's website.

Farm and Food Worker Relief Grant Program
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for the Farm and Food Worker Relief Grant Program, which provides approximately $665 million in Consolidated Appropriations Act funds to provide grants to state agencies, Tribal entities, and nonprofit organizations with experience in providing support or relief services to farmworkers or meatpacking workers. Awards will generally range from $5,000,000 to $50,000,000. Entities receiving awards will then distribute relief payments to frontline farmworkers and meatpacking workers who incurred expenses preparing for, preventing exposure to, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA strongly encourages small organizations to partner together or to partner with national organizations in submitting applications to ensure this support has the broadest reach and distribution possible to America’s farm and food workers. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will set aside up to a total of $20,000,000 of this amount for one or more grant agreements to benefit grocery store workers. The application deadline is March 10. Visit the USDA website for more information.

PA Livestock Producers, Ag Professionals Encouraged to Take Short Survey on Mental Wellness
Pennsylvania livestock producers and agricultural professionals who work directly with these producers are encouraged to take a short survey to share their insights on mental wellness in the Pennsylvania agriculture industry. The surveys are being conducted as part of a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture effort, funded by a USDA Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) Grant. The Center for Dairy Excellence, Center for Beef Excellence, Center for Poultry & Livestock, and PA Beef Producers Working Group are partnering to evaluate how Pennsylvania agriculture producers are managing mental health and stress on the farm. After using the survey results to determine a baseline, the group will develop a library of resources to help dairy farm families and service professionals navigate mental health challenges. The surveys are confidential and anonymous, and individuals are encouraged to answer the questions and submit their responses by January 31, 2022. FRSAN grant partners will also be hosting several mental health workshops in the spring of 2022. Dates and details for the mental health workshops will be announced in early 2022. To complete the short surveys, visit www.centerfordairyexcellence.org/mental-wellness-survey to access the digital surveys. If you would like to be mailed a hard copy of the survey, call 717-346-0849 or email info@centerfordairyexcellence.org.

Apply Now for Dairy Farmers of America CoLAB Accelerator Program
Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is now accepting applications for the 2022 DFA CoLAB Accelerator program, which will begin in April and run through June 2022. The program is designed to foster relationships with startup companies and help advance innovative solutions in the areas of ag-tech and dairy food products. For the 2022 program, DFA's CoLAB Accelerator is looking for ag-tech companies with applications or technologies related to any portion of the dairy value chain, including but not limited to animal health, farm data management, herd health and management, supply chain optimization, farm labor and sustainability. Some ag-tech categories of particular interest to DFA include antibiotic alternatives, renewable or alternative energy methods, farm labor solutions, food waste technologies, automation and robotics, on-farm connectivity, animal identification and monitoring and animal transport technologies. On the food front, the farmer-owned Cooperative is seeking early-stage food product companies that are dairy-focused or dairy-based, including products using milk, cheese, butter, whey or other dairy-based ingredients. Companies developing innovative processing or manufacturing technologies for dairy products, including sustainable packaging, will also be considered. For more information, visit the CoLAB website.

Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Products Manufacturing Assistance Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development' Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Products Manufacturing Assistance Program provides loan guarantees to assist in the development, construction and retrofitting of new and emerging technologies for advance biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products. The application deadline is April 1, 2022. Visit USDA Rural Development for more information or view the program fact sheet.

Grants for Dairy Farm Consulting Services
The Center for Dairy Excellence is accepting applications for the Dairy Decisions Consultant (DDC) Grant Program for the 2021-22 year. The DDC Program provides dairy farm families with professional consulting resources to help make decisions that will shape the future of their operation in one of six strategic areas. Once accepted into the program, farms can receive up to $3,500 to work with a Dairy Decisions Consultant who has firsthand experience in the dairy industry. The application period opened in September 2021, and limited grants are available first come, first served. Farms must complete an application and submit a required $100 application fee to participate. Once approved, farms can use the DDC grant to be reimbursed for any qualified expenses incurred from July 1, 2021 to May 30, 2022. Visit the Center for Dairy Excellence website for more information or contact Melissa Anderson at 717-636-0779 or manderson@centerfordairyexcellence.org.

Organic Certification Cost Share Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides organic producers and handlers with financial assistance to reduce the cost of organic certification. The program reimburses producers and handlers for a portion of their paid certification costs. Once certified, organic producers and handlers are eligible to receive reimbursement for 50 percent of certification costs each year, up to a maximum of $500 per certification scope-crops, livestock, wild crops, handling, and State Organic Program fees. Eligible costs include application fees, inspection costs, fees related to equivalency agreement/arrangement requirements, travel/per diem for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments, and postage. More information on the program and how to apply is available on FSA's website.

USDA Issuing Debt Relief Payments to Farmers of Color
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would begin issuing debt relief payments to farmers who are Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Indigenous, or Pacific Islander starting in June. The relief payments were authorized by the $1.9 trillion federal pandemic relief package, the American Rescue Plan. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will pay up to 120 percent of outstanding FSA loan balances as of January 1, 2021. If you are a farmer of color, contact your local FSA office for more information. For more information about American Rescue Plan Debt Payments, visit the FSA website.

USDA Launches Build Back Better Initiative
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. The new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind, and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Funding announcements under the Build Back Better initiative will include a mix of grants, loans, and innovative financing mechanisms. For more information about the Build Back Better Initiative, visit USDA's website.

Apply Now for Farm Vitality Planning Grants
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the Farm Vitality Planning Grant Program, which is part of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill Program. The grant program will help to fund professional services for those planning for the future of a farm. Funding will also support the long-term vitality of Pennsylvania's farms through sound business planning, efficient transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion, diversification of agricultural production, and building a team of financial and technical expertise as a resource for Pennsylvania's farmers. This reimbursement grant offers a maximum grant amount is $7,500 and is limited to 75 percent of project costs. Grant applications will be accepted until funding is exhausted. Click here for more information.

Spotted Lanternfly Business Toolkit Available
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has developed the Spotted Lanternfly Business Toolkit to help businesses understand the threats of the Spotted Lanternfly, and to help slow its spread in the commonwealth. As Spotted Lanternfly season approaches, it is critical that Pennsylvania businesses know their responsibilities when it comes to the quarantine and permitting. Visit the Department of Agriculture's website at this link for more information.

USDA Initiative Offers Pandemic Assistance for Producers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established programs and efforts to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers will reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs. USDA is dedicating at least $6 billion toward the programs. Click here for more information.

USDA Launches AgLab for Students, Educators
AgLab, a new science-education website operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service is now available to student and educators. AgLab's goal is to help  educate students about the critical intersect of science and agriculture in their daily lives, such as wrinkle-free cotton, edible coatings that keep apple slices from turning brown, a low-glycemic sweetener, DEET insecticide, and a bounty of new varieties of fruits and vegetables. Geared toward K-12 students with an interest in food and science, AgLab offers a variety of content to promote a greater understanding of how agricultural research is helping meet the food, fiber, feed and fuel needs of a growing world population while also safeguarding our environment and natural resources.

Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program Guidelines
The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has program guidelines available on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program. The income tax credit provides an incentive to lease or sell land, buildings, and/or equipment to beginning farmers. The program allows for a one-time tax credit for property sold to a beginning farmer or a multi-year credit for property leased. The tax credit could be used to aid in family transitions, such as sales from a parent to a child, or to help an unrelated beginning farmer. Beginning farmers who participate in the program must be certified by DCED by demonstrating that they have the experience or skills needed to work in agriculture, have not received income from farming for more than 10 years, and plan to farm in Pennsylvania. Property owners can claim a credit equal to 5 percent of the sale price or fair market value (whichever is lower) of an asset sold to a beginning farmer, up to a maximum of $32,000. For rental agreements, the credit is equal to 10 percent of gross rental income for the first, second, and third years of the rental agreement, a maximum of $7,000/year. Click here for more information.

Pa Preferred Homegrown By Heros Program Open To Farmers Who Are Military Veterans
Homegrown by Heroes is a program for PA Preferred members who are veterans. The program allows farmers who are military veterans to add the Homegrown by Heroes logo to their products so that consumers can easily identify it and support veteran-owned businesses. A program of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Homegrown by Heroes was founded by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in January 2013. To become a certified Homegrown By Heroes member, first become a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition (membership is free). If you are not yet a member or for more information, visit the Farmer Veteran Coalition website. After your membership has been approved by FVC, you'll need to become a certified Homegrown By Heroes member. More details can be found on the Farmer Veteran Coalition's Homegrown by Heroes page. Finally, apply to the PA Preferred program (membership is free). Once these requirements have been met, complete the PA Preferred Homegrown by Heroes Application (PDF).

Farmlink Resources Focus On Healthy Farms, Healthy Minds
Pennsylvania Farmlink has posted some new resources for farmers called, Healthy Farms, Healthy Minds. The brochure and video encourage farmers to pay attention to and care for their mental health, just as they would pay attention to the health and vibrancy of their farms. Click here for the video and brochure.

PA Farm Link Database Helps Keep Pa Land In Agriculture
Agriculture is one of Pennsylvania's top industries and it's important to keep land in agriculture production and help the next generation keep it alive and thriving, Pennsylvania Farm Link offers an online database of farming opportunities for the next generation. There is a one-time fee of $100 to list on the database. Farmer information is kept completely confidential until famers decide they are ready to meet the interested farmer or landowner. Visit the PA Farm Link website at www.pafarmlink.org and click on either the "Find A Farm" or "Find A Farmer" tab to see what is currently available. For more information call (717) 705-2121 or email farmland@pafarmlink.org.


Arts and Humanities

American Rescue Plan Grants to Organziations
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has released guidelines and application materials for two programs to distribute American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. These programs are open to nonprofit arts and culture organizations, local governments, federally recognized tribal communities or tribes, and local arts agencies, regardless of whether they have received NEA funding in the past. This is a change from previous emergency funding requirements at the NEA and significantly expands access to federal funds for the arts and culture sector. The NEA encourages applications from first-time applicants, and will offer workshops, question and answer sessions, and other resources for those new to federal funding.  Visit NEA's website for more information and to apply.


Broadband

ReConnect Program Grant Applications Available Beginning Nov 24
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is accepting applications for the fiscal year 2022 Rural eConnectivity Program, or ReConnect Program. The ReConnect Program provides loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. In facilitating the expansion of broadband services and infrastructure, the program will fuel long-term rural economic development and opportunities in rural America. Beginning on November 24, 2021, applications may be submitted through the RUS on-line application portal at www.usda.gov/reconnect. The application deadline is February 22, 2022.

NTIA Interactive Map Helps Public Visualize Digital Divide
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced a new publicly available digital map that displays key indicators of broadband needs across the country. This is the first interactive, public map that allows users to explore different datasets about where people do not have access to quality broadband. The Indicators of Broadband Need map integrates data from both public and private sources and contains data aggregated at the county, census tract, and census block level. Speed-test data provided by M-Lab and Ookla help illustrate the reality that many parts of the country report speeds that fall below the Federal Communication Commission's current benchmark for fixed broadband service of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The map also allows users to see the relationship between poverty and Internet use, displaying how areas of high poverty relate to lack of access to computers and related equipment. Usage patterns in tribal communities, which have historically suffered from lack of internet access, are included in the map as well.

Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans and Loan Guarantee Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is accepting applications for loans and loan guarantees to build or update broadband and telephone infrastructure in rural areas where financing can be used for the construction, improvement, or expansion of telecommunications infrastructure serving rural areas with a population of 5,000 or fewer. The application period is ongoing. Visit USDA Rural Development for more information.

Economic Development Grants for Broadband Infrastructure, Adoption, Skills Training
The Economic Development Administration (EDA will administer $1.5 billion for economic development assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau's flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program, to provide a wide-range of financial assistance to communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. EDA is accepting applications from applicants in rural and urban areas to provide investments that support construction, non-construction, technical assistance, and revolving loan fund projects under EDA's Public Works and EAA programs, including planning, broadband infrastructure, broadband adoption, digital skills training, and smart cities. Eligible applicants are libraries, higher education institutions, state and local governments, tribal entities, and nonprofit organizations. Grants and cooperative agreements made under these programs are designed to leverage existing regional assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities. EDA provides strategic investments on a competitive-merit-basis to support economic development, foster job creation, and attract private investment in economically distressed areas. For more information, click here or contact the Philadelphia Regional Office at (215) 597-4603.

Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program
The Pennsylvania Governor's Office of Broadband Initiatives offers funding and resource announcements through its Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) administers several programs for which broadband deployment may be an eligible use. Click on the name of the following programs to learn about eligibility requirements and program guidelines. Business in Our Sites Grants/Loans; Fay-Penn Program; Keystone Communities Program; Local Share Account (LSA) - Fayette County; Local Share Account (LSA) - Luzerne County; Local Share Account (LSA) - Monroe County; Local Share Account (LSA) - Montgomery County; Local Share Account (LSA) - Washington County; Pennsylvania First Program (PA First); Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) Tax Exempt Bond Program; Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) Taxable Bond Program; Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA).  For information about how to apply for DCED programs, click here. Assistance with broadband deployment in connection with transportation projects may also be available from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank, a program of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

FCC Launches Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to help households struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms. The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household. A household is eligible if one member of the household: Qualifies for the Lifeline program; Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year; Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers' existing low-income or COVID-19 program. The program has been authorized by the FCC, but the start date has not yet been established. The FCC is working to make the benefit available as quickly as possible. Please continue to check the program webpage for updates.


Childcare and Early Learning

USDA and HHS Launch Rural Resource Guide to Help Increase Access to Child Care Services

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development and Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families have released a Joint Resource Guide to help people in rural and Tribal communities increase access to child care services. The guide provides useful information to help stakeholders in rural communities - including Tribes and Tribal organizations - address the need for improved access to affordable, high-quality childcare and early learning facilities through USDA and HHS funding and technical assistance resources. For more information on USDA Rural Development, visit www.rd.usda.gov.


Community and Economic Development

Rural Business Development Grants Available
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is accepting applications for the Rural Business Development Grant Program. This program is designed to provide grants to support technical assistance and training for small rural businesses. Small means that the business has fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue. Each year, Congress has mandated that a portion of this program is set-aside to fund projects that benefit members of federally recognized Tribes. The application deadline is February 28, 2022. Visit USDA Rural Development's website for more information.

RCAP Solutions Launches Open for Business Program for Small Businesses, Entrepreneurs
RCAP Solutions has launched the Open for Business program, an economic development initiative that aims to support small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. Powered by the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund, the program offers self-guided online workshops, monthly webinars, and one-on-one consulting (which are all provided in both English and Spanish).  All of these services are provided at no cost. All current business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs intending to establish, purchase, or improve a business are eligible and encouraged to participate. This program is coordinated by the national Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) to provide services to small businesses across the entire country. RCAP Solutions provides these services throughout the Northeast and Caribbean regions. For more information, visit the RCAP Solutions Open for Business website.

USDA Accepting Application Under Strategic Economic and Community Development Initiative
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications to implement projects supported by regional economic and community development planning to help rural Americans. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized USDA to make this funding available under the Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) initiative. Funding may be used to implement projects that are supported by multi-jurisdictional and multi-sectoral strategic community investment plans. In fiscal year 2022, this funding is available under the following USDA Rural Development programs: Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program; Community Facilities Loan Guarantee Program; Water and Waste Disposal Direct Loan and Grant Program; Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees; Rural Business Development Grants; and Community Connect Grants. To be eligible for SECD reserved funding, applicants must meet the requirements and deadlines under the covered programs. Applicants must also submit a Form 1980-88 to USDA. USDA Rural Development encourages applicants to consider projects that will advance key priorities including combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the impacts of climate change and/or advancing equity in rural America. For more information, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/priority-points. For more information on other requirements and deadlines under the covered programs, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Hometown Grants for Small Town Revitalization
T-Mobile is offering funding through the T-Mobile Hometown Grants Program, which is intended to help build stronger, more prosperous small towns and rural communities throughout the United States. Up to 100 towns each year for the next five years will receive community improvement grants of up to $50,000 each.  Examples of eligible projects include revitalizing a town hall, a senior center, a local little league field, a library, or any space where friends and neighbors gather. Elected leaders, town managers and employees, and nonprofit leaders are eligible to submit applications. Requests will be reviewed quarterly. Online application information is available on the T-Mobile website.

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program Grants and Loans Available
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for loan and grants to support rural microenterprises through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). RMAP provides loans and grants to a non-profit entity, tribe or institution of higher education as a Microenterprise Development Organization (MDO) to establish revolving loan funds to provide loans to rural microloan borrowers and microentrepreneurs. The funds also may be used to provide training and technical assistance to microentrepreneurs. To be eligible for a loan from an MDO, an ultimate recipient must be a business with 10 or fewer full-time employees and be in a non-metropolitan rural area with a population of 50,000 or less. Applications are being accepted in USDA's Rural Development State Office where the project is located. For more information and application deadlines, see page 41004 of the July 30 Federal Register.

USDA Rural Workforce Resource Guide
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a resource guide (PDF, 2.5 MB) to help rural community leaders start and expand employment opportunities and access resources to train, recruit and create a sustainable rural workforce. The resource guide outlines programs and services available at USDA and other federal agencies that support workforce development in rural communities. It helps community leaders and other local entities access resources more easily to create jobs, train talent, expand educational opportunities and provide technical assistance. A resource matrix organizes USDA funding opportunities by four key assistance types: workforce development planning; infrastructure and equipment financing; industry and employer engagement, entrepreneurship and local business development; and education, training and apprenticeship. The guide also features examples of how customers have used USDA programs to support each assistance type. It includes recommendations on how rural leaders can replicate this assistance in their communities. Additional resources to support rural workforce development are available at www.rd.usda.gov/rwin.

USDA Rural Development Funding To Establish Revolving Loan Programs For Rural Businesses
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is seeking applications for funding to establish revolving loan programs to support rural businesses and community development projects. Subject to the availability of funds, the loans will be established through USDA's Intermediary Relending Program. Eligible recipients include nonprofits and cooperatives, federally-recognized tribes and public agencies. The revolving loan funds may be loaned to ultimate recipient borrowers to acquire, construct or enlarge a business; purchase or develop land; purchase equipment, machinery or supplies; or for start-up costs and working capital. Click here for more information.

Rural LISC Funding To Develop, Improve Community Facilities
Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) is accepting applications for the Community Facilities Fund, which provides capital to help develop and improve essential community facilities in rural areas. Rural LISC uses this fund to provide permanent and construction-to-permanent financing for rural community facilities, including health care centers, hospitals, educational facilities, and other nonprofit and public facilities in rural communities with populations under 20,000. There is no application deadline. For more information, click here.

PA'S One-Stop Shop For Business Development
Looking for help to start your own business or expand your existing business? Visit Pennsylvania's Business One-Stop Shop at www.business.pa.gov. The site provides information and resources for businesses both large and small, and serves as the first point of contact for Pennsylvania business development concerns. The shop's team helps connect and guide businesses through all stages of development - from planning and startup to operating and expanding. Visit www.business.pa.gov or call (833) 722-6778.


COVID-19

Free Rapid COVID-19 Tests
The Biden Administration is distributing free, at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to American homes. The program is limiting the number of tests sent to each residential address to four tests. Tests will usually ship within 7-12 days of ordering. All orders in the continental U.S. will be sent through First Class Package Service, with shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Territories and APO/FPO/DPO addresses sent through Priority Mail. The administration is taking a number of steps to ensure that the program reaches the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities by prioritizing processing orders to households experiencing the highest social vulnerability and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly during this Omicron surge; launching a free call line, so that Americans who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support can phone-in orders for their tests; and, working with national and local organizations with deep experience serving communities of color, people living with disabilities, and other high-risk communities to serve as navigators, raise awareness about the program, and help people submit requests. For more information, see the announcement here.

COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Grant Program
The COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Grant Program supports the efforts of local organizations in Pennsylvania conducting grassroots outreach to communities about COVID-19 vaccines. Organizations will work to educate their communities on COVID-19 vaccines to improve vaccine use, and overall, the health and safety of Pennsylvania. This program will engage and provide the necessary funding to community organizations to educate their community regarding COVID-19 vaccination to address hesitancy concerns and barriers. Grant amounts will range from $10,000 - $100,000. The COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Grant Program is a federally funded program. Applicants will need a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number in order to apply for funding and be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM) in order to receive funding under the program. To register for a DUNS number please visit Dun & Bradstreet website. To obtain a SAM number, visit the SAM website. Project applications must be submitted using the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Electronic Single Application for Assistance.

Rural Community Toolkit on Building Vaccine Confidence
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released the Rural Community Toolkit to increase confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines while reinforcing basic prevention measures in rural communities. The toolkit features tailored materials to help educate rural residents about the vaccines. This material is intended for all organizations that communicate directly with rural audiences. Access the user guide to learn how to use it in your community.

CDC Community-Based Toolkit on COVID-19 Vaccines and More
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designed a toolkit to help community-based organizations educate communities about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of the vaccination, and address common questions and concerns. Click here for the toolkit. 

RHIHUB Rural Resources For Covid-19
Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) had developed an online guide to provide information about activities underway to address COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Federal and state agencies, along with national organizations, are sharing resources and guidelines to help all communities and healthcare facilities, including rural areas, respond to this issue. Visit www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/covid-19 for the latest information.


Domestic Violence Prevention

PCADV Releases New 5-Year Domestic Violence Prevention Plan
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV), with the assistance of a diverse and interdisciplinary Statewide Leadership Team (SLT), has released its bold 5-year plan for preventing domestic violence in Pennsylvania. Rooted in a social justice approach, the plan looks at the prevalence of domestic violence by acknowledging and addressing oppressions that lead to inequities in access to power and resources across groups of people. Both the development of the SLT and the State Action Plan are made possible, and fully funded, by a 5-year DELTA Impact grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to the PCADV in 2018. Visit PCADV's website to view and download the 5-year plan.


Energy

USDA Rural Energy Grants for Renewable Energy Systems
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for FY22 rural energy grants for renewable energy systems and the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements. Application for grants of $20,000 or less and loan/grants of $20,000 or less combo applications are due by November 1, or March 31, 2022. Applications for unrestricted grants or loan/unrestricted grant combo applications are due by March 31, 2022. Visit USDA's website for more information.


Grant Writing


Health and Human Services

Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program
Funded through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program provides immediate relief to address economic conditions arising from the COVID-19 emergency. It also provides funding to advance ideas and solutions to solve regional rural health care problems to support the long-term sustainability of rural health care. Eligible applicants include public bodies, community-based nonprofits and federally recognized Tribes. Track One: Recovery Grant applications are being accepted on a continual basis until all funds are exhausted. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development website for more information or contact the Pennsylvania USDA Rural Development Office at (717) 237-2299.

Innovations in Alzheimer's Caregiving Awards Program
The Innovations in Alzheimer's Caregiving Awards Program offers monetary awards to programs or projects that focus on supporting family and informal caregivers of adults with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. The program is sponsored by the Family Caregiver Alliance. One award of $20,000 will be given in each of three categories: creative expression - programs that use imaginative and creative approaches, such as art, music, theater, multimedia, and technology; diverse/multicultural communities - programs that fill a gap in services, support, or other types of outreach to family/informal caregivers in rural, low-income, diverse ethnic, diverse age, or LGBTQ communities; and public policy - programs that advocate for systems change for the benefit of family/informal caregivers or care recipients. Eligible applicants are nonprofits, government agencies and universities. For more information, visit the program website, or the online application.

Rural Health Information Hub Online
If you're looking for an online source for current and reliable resources and tools on rural health needs and the work being done to address them, check out the Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub), formerly the Rural Assistance Center. RHIhub is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to be a national clearinghouse on rural health issues. RHIhub also provides free assistance customized to your needs. Call (800) 270-1898 or email info@ruralhealthinfo.org.

Angel Flight's Free, Non-Emergency Air Travel For Rural Children And Adults
Angel Flight East (AFE), founded in Pennsylvania by Harry Morales, a general aviation pilot, is dedicated to rural health by facilitating free air transportation to children and adults in need of medical treatment far from home. AFE is based in Montgomery County, Pa., and serves the Northeast United States. While AFE flies patients from all over a 14-state territory, it has seen an even greater need for patients living in rural areas and those with rare medical conditions who often have to travel far distances for treatment. For more information, click here.


Historic Preservation

Certified Local Government Grants Available
The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has announced two new grant programs exclusively for Certified Local Governments in Pennsylvania. The Certified Local Government Program (CLG) is a partnership between municipal governments, SHPO, and the National Park Service (NPS) that promotes and supports effective historic preservation programs and policies in Pennsylvania municipalities. Designation is a mark of distinction that provides participating communities with credibility, as well as access to technical assistance and grant programs. The CLG Mini-Grant program provides grants up to $7,500 for planning, ordinances, surveys, studies, guidelines, and public education projects (basically anything that is not construction). These grants can be used for projects sponsored by the municipality, or that the municipality applies for on behalf of a partner organization in the community. Mini-grants are available on a rolling basis and are awarded first-come-first-served. Click here for the application. The CLG Scholarship program provides funding for individuals in CLG communities to participate in conferences, seminars, and online programs related to preservation issues, to host speakers and training programs, or to purchase educational materials or memberships in organizations that provide training programs and publications. Scholarships may be up to $2,000 for each individual attending an event or $5,000 per hosted training program. Larger awards will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Scholarships are available on a rolling basis and are awarded first-come-first-served. Click here for the application. Click here for more information about CLG.


Housing

Flexible Loans from HAC
The Housing Assistance Council (HAC)has flexible loan capital available to support preservation of U.S. Department of Agriculture Section 515 properties, U.S. Housing and Urban Development-subsidized properties, and naturally occurring affordable housing in rural places. Eligible properties are existing affordable or mixed-income rental housing (with or without current income restrictions). Loans can be $50,000-$1.5 million, interest rates can be as low as 4.5%, and terms can be up to 180 months, with longer amortization periods based on project needs. Eligible borrowers include nonprofit organizations, for-profit developers, housing authorities, and tribal entities. For more information, see HAC's website.

USDA Rural Development Housing Loans, Grants, Technical Assistance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development has several loan and grant programs for homeowners, including the following: Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants (Section 504 Home Repair Program), which provide loans to very-low-income homeowners to repair, improve, or modernize their homes or provides grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards; Rural Home Loans Direct Program (Section 502 Direct Loan Program), which assists low- and very-low-income applicants with obtaining decent, safe, and sanitary housing in eligible rural areas by providing payment assistance to increase an applicant's repayment ability; and Mutual Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grants, which provide grants to qualified organizations to help them carry out local self-help housing construction projects. More information on these and other USDA Rural Development services and programs is available at https://www.rd.usda.gov/pa or by calling (717) 237-2273.

USDA Rural Development Seeks Nonprofit Assistance as Home Loan Application Packagers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is looking for nonprofits to assist as loan application packagers for its Section 502 Direct Loan Program. Loan application packagers provide an optional service to parties seeking a housing loan by helping to navigate the loan application process. A packager can help determine if the Section 502 Direct Loan Program is a good fit, and, if so, help to assemble a complete loan application package. Generally, a fee is charged for their service. Packagers do not work for or represent Rural Development. Rural Development supports partnerships with loan application packagers since they can provide outreach and be available in counties where there is not a local Rural Development office. For more information, click here.


Infrastructure

USDA Seeks Applications to Improve Rural Transportation Systems
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications to enhance the operation of rural transportation systems. The grants are part of the Rural Business Development Grant program. Eligible applicants are qualified national organizations seeking to provide rural communities with training and technical assistance to improve passenger transportation services and facilities. USDA does not provide funding directly to individuals under this program. USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects seeking to address these critical challenges in rural America. Applications will be scored, reviewed, and selected on a competitive basis. Applications must be submitted to the applicant’s nearest USDA office by April 14, 2022. More information is available on page 2406 of the Jan 14, 2022, Federal Register.

USDA Rural Development Loans And Grants Programs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has the Water and Waste Disposal Direct Loan and Grant Program and Loan Guarantees Program available. The Water and Waste Disposal Direct Loan and Grant Program can provide funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas. The Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees Program can help private lenders provide affordable financing to qualified borrowers to improve access to clean, reliable water and waste disposal systems for households and businesses in rural areas. To learn more about either of these programs, contact your local Pennsylvania USDA Rural Development office here.

America Walks Technical Assistance
America Walks is now offering more intensive, Technical Assistance (T.A.) solutions to government, non-profit, and business clients. With more than 20 years of experience in advocacy campaigns and policy development, America Walks' T.A. program is based on proven strategies for engaging community stakeholders, building local walking movements, and developing the political will that leads to positive change. Click here for more information.


Opioids/Substance Abuse Disorder

Rural Communities Opioid Response Program - Behavioral Health Care Support
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), is accepting applications for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program–Behavioral Health Care Support (RCORP-BHS) program, as $13 million in funding has been made available to increase access to quality behavioral health care services in rural America. RCORP-BHS is a part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP), a multi-year initiative administered by HRSA that has provided over $400 million in direct grants and technical assistance to rural communities addressing behavioral health care challenges, including substance use disorder since 2018. All domestic public and private entities, nonprofit and for-profit, are eligible to apply for RCORP-BHS, including, but not limited to, Rural Health Clinics, community- and faith-based organizations, and federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations. Approximately 26 award recipients will receive $500,000 each per year for a four-year period of performance. Award recipients are required to be part of a consortium of four or more separately owned entities and all services must be provided in HRSA-designated rural areas. Additionally, award recipients will submit a Behavioral Health Disparities Impact Statement during the period of performance that details how their project will address health disparities within their target rural service areas. Applicants can begin the RCORP-Behavioral Health Care Support application process on Grants.gov. The application deadline is April 19. FORHP will hold a technical assistance webinar for applicants on Thursday, February 3, 2022 from 1 – 2:30 p.m. ET. A recording will be made available for those who cannot attend. For dial-in information, view the NOFO on Grants.gov, click the Package tab, then Preview, and Download Instructions; technical assistance information is on page (ii). You do not need to register in advance for the webinar. Please email ruralopioidresponse@hrsa.gov for a link to the recording.

PA DHS And Aging Announce Kinconnector Helpline
The Pennsylvania Departments of Human Services and Aging have announced a new KinConnector helpline for families in kinship care situations, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings raising children because of the opioid crisis. The KinConnector helpline connects families with available resources such as: health, financial, and legal services; training; parenting advice; locating physical or behavioral health services; school enrollment; support groups; and other services designed to help caregivers. Navigators will also be available to help families apply for federal, state, and local benefits. To reach KinConnector, call 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111). Assistance is available Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

Guidebook Assists Rural Leaders With Response To Crisis Of Addiction
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has released a new guidebook to assist rural community leaders in building an effective local response to the crisis of addiction. The Rural Community Action Guide: Building Stronger, Healthy Drug-Free Rural Communities provides rural leaders with information they can put into immediate action to create change. It provides background information, recommended action steps, and promising practices to help manage the impact of substance use disorder on local communities and help persons with the disease of addiction. The topics are based on lessons learned from Department of Agriculture rural roundtable discussions held in over a dozen states, as well as the experiences of several rural stakeholder partners.  

Seniors

Senior Food Box Program Helps Stretch Food Dollars
The Senior Food Box program is a monthly food package tailored for older adults, age 60 and above, that helps stretch food dollars and adds nutritious foods to promote good health. The program works to improve the health of low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with nutritious food. In Pennsylvania, eligible participants include low-income individuals who are at least 60 years old and whose household income is at or below 130 percent of the U.S. poverty level. The program is supported through USDA's Commodity Supplemental Food Program. USDA purchases the food and makes it available to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), which works with local nonprofit agencies to facilitate distribution of the monthly food boxes to eligible participants. To apply, applications should fill out the self-certification form and submit it to PDA at RA-fooddist@pa.gov. PDA will then route the application to the appropriate food bank providing service in the applicant's county of residence. Applicants can also call 800-468-2433 to be directed to the regional food bank distributing the Senior Food Box in their county of residence. More information is available at PDA's website.

SNAP Benefits for Seniors
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps Pennsylvanians buy food. People in eligible low-income households can obtain more nutritious diets with SNAP, which helps increase their food purchasing power at grocery stores and supermarkets. Those who are eligible receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) ACCESS Card to make food purchases. Studies show seniors enrolled in SNAP have better health and need less acute and long-term care. If everyone in the household is age 60 or older or has a disability, purchases and prepares food together, and does not receive any earnings from work, they can fill out a simple application. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' website for more information.


Workforce Development

USDA Invites Partners to Join the Rural Workforce Innovation Network (RWIN)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Rural Workforce Innovation Network (RWIN) to create a forum for public and private partners to help increase access to workforce opportunities across rural America. This network represents governmental entities, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses that are actively working to improve workforce development in their local communities. The kick-off meeting for this effort has already taken place, but more meetings are planned. Click here to learn more and join the network.