IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
March 19, 2018
Mr. Warner (for himself, Mrs. Capito, Mr. Manchin, and Mr. Wicker) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
To amend the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to award grants to benefit the Appalachia region, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Appalachia Opportunity Grants Act of 2018.
Appalachia innovation grants
Subtitle D of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (7 U.S.C. 1981 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:
Appalachia innovation grants
In this section:
The term eligible entity means a unit of local government in the region.
The term region means the Appalachian region (as defined in section 14102(a) of title 40, United States Code).
The Secretary may award grants to eligible entities to convene groups of public and private entities to collaborate in carrying out regional projects to accomplish positive economic and community impacts in the region.
To be eligible to receive a grant under subsection (b), an eligible entity—
shall convene as part of the collaborative group representatives of each of—
a local economic development board or office in the region;
a private company or association; and
an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001)) in the region; and
may convene as part of the collaborative group representatives of other entities (such as venture capital firms, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic organizations) that the eligible entity determines are important to the goal of the regional project described in subsection (d)(2).
The Secretary may assist in the formation of a collaborative group under paragraph (1) by establishing a referral process under which a private company or association seeking to invest in a particular area in the region is matched with an eligible entity located in that area.
Database of potential investors
In carrying out subparagraph (A), the Secretary may—
establish and maintain a database of private companies and associations seeking to invest in the region; and
coordinate with other Federal agencies, including the Department of Commerce, to register inquiries—
that are made to those agencies by private companies and associations seeking to invest in the region; and
in the database described in clause (i).
A regional project carried out by a collaborative group under subsection (b) shall—
involve not fewer than 2 municipalities that share a border; and
complete a specific activity that has as a goal—
job creation in the region;
expansion of the capacity of post-secondary education in the region;
growth of tourism in the region;
improving public health in the region; or
upgrading regional infrastructure.
An eligible entity that has convened a collaborative group described in subsection (c)(1) and identified an activity for a regional project described in subsection (d)(2) may submit to the Secretary an application that includes—
a detailed description of—
a timeline for the completion of the regional project; and
the responsibilities of each member of the collaborative group in carrying out the regional project;
evidence that the collaborative group is a public-private partnership;
evidence that the collaborative group will maintain intermunicipality cooperation;
a description of the reasons that the eligible entity requires Federal funds;
evidence that the eligible entity has previously sought funding from State, local, or private programs;
a description of the source of non-Federal funds for the regional project;
a description of the positive economic or community impact (including relating to education) of the regional project;
an assessment of the assets and weaknesses of the community in which the regional project will be implemented;
a regional strategic plan that—
takes into account the assessment described in subparagraph (H); and
includes an analysis of the alignment of the regional project with the regional strategic plan; and
evidence, with full transparency and credibility, of minimal obstruction to the completion of the project design phase described in subsection (f)(2)(A) by not later than 1 year after the date on which the eligible entity receives the grant.
The Secretary shall give priority to applications submitted under paragraph (1) that describe a positive, measurable economic impact.
Limitation on grant amount
A grant for a regional project under subsection (b) shall be not more than $2,000,000.
A grant under subsection (b) shall be awarded in the following 2 phases:
An eligible entity may use 50 percent of the grant during the period beginning on the date on which the eligible entity receives the grant and ending not later than 1 year after that date to continue the planning and design of the regional project, including activities such as—
permit approvals; and
real estate arrangements.
An eligible entity that completes the planning and design of the regional project under subparagraph (A) may use the remaining grant funds for the completion of the construction and implementation of the regional project.
Matching funds requirement
An eligible entity that receives a grant under subsection (b) shall provide non-Federal funding equal to not less than 10 percent of the amount of the grant.
Reservation of grant funds
The Secretary shall reserve 20 percent of the funds made available under subsection (h) for each fiscal year to award grants to eligible entities that convene collaborative groups that include a representative of a private company or association that is located in the region.
Review of grant program
Government Accountability Office review
The Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a review of the implementation of this section for—
the 2-year period beginning on the date on which the Secretary begins to accept applications for grants under this section; and
each 4-year period thereafter.
Reports to Congress
The Secretary shall submit to Congress an annual report describing—
funding decisions under this section;
a justification for each grant awarded under this section; and
with respect to each regional project that has received a grant under this section, the extent to which—
benchmarks for the project have been met in accordance with the timeline for the project; and
the project may be considered an example to other municipalities desiring a grant under this section.
Of amounts made available for the Dislocated Worker National Reserve fund under section 132(a)(2)(A) of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (29 U.S.C. 3172(a)(2)(A)), $100,000,000 shall be used to carry out this section for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2027.