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OR Rural Economies Get Assist in CHIPS Act

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Monday, August 29, 2022   

A program approved by Congress aims to give rural communities in Oregon and elsewhere a boost when applying for federal dollars.

The CHIPS Act, passed last month, boosts semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

It also includes a $1 billion pilot program to help distressed communities apply for economic development funds. It's coming at an especially critical time as legislation like the infrastructure package passed in Congress directs billions of dollars to states.

Jim McCauley is legislative director for the League Of Oregon Cities.

"The biggest challenge that many of the small cities in Oregon - or some of the other rural communities across the country - face is really a question of resources," said McCauley. "And those resources come down to whether or not they have staff in house that can write grants or that can manage projects."

McCauley said communities also struggle with matching grants, but notes that Oregon aims to help with this.

The pilot program in the CHIPS Act is based on legislation known as the RECOMPETE ACT, written by Rep. Derek Kilmer - D-Gig Harbor - from Washington state.

Matt Hildreth - executive director of Ruralorganizing.org - said big cities typically are first in line for federal grants, but he believes this program could change that.

"It targets funds specifically to small towns and rural communities, and communities across the country that are economically distressed," said Hildreth, "and ensures that they have a shot at getting access to those federal funds as well."

He noted that the vast majority of communities classified as 'economically distressed' are rural.

Hildreth also noted that each place has different development needs, from more broadband to help transitioning between industries. He said under this pilot, communities will guide the investments.

"It allows local leaders to have the flexibility they need to invest in the challenges that they see in their specific community," said Hildreth. "It's not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a locally-led approach."




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