The Rural Return Grant program seeks to support creative programming that attracts new residents to move and/or work in rural communities. Grant funding supports the development and implementation of incentive programs. Across the state, there are small towns losing population or witnessing an aging population, this funding opportunity is aimed at addressing that challenge by empowering communities to develop a program that will attract the new residents to locate within their community to live and/or work. Incentive programs can be targeting a specific profession, such as teachers or dentists; or supporting a specific demographic, such as veterans; or celebrating local assets, such as providing recreation packages or business gifts.
This program is a result of the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative’s 2020 Recommendations. The program, defined in Iowa Administrative Code, is administered by the Center for Rural Revitalization, a division of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), in consultation with the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative Task Forces.
Grant Request Amount
Applicants may request funding for eligible project expenses incurred and expended within the eligible funding period.
- Minimum Grant Request: $1,000
- Maximum Grant Request: $20,000
Applicants are required to demonstrate investment in projects by providing a minimum of 1:1/2 cash match. The cash match must be secured, dedicated to eligible expenses, a legitimate part of the proposed project and must be expended within the eligible funding period. Cash match constitutes actual cash contributed to direct project expenses by the applicant or other funding sources. The 1:1/2 match requirement may be raised through a combination of public and private sources but may not include in-kind donations of goods or services, unsecured funding or loans. For example, an applicant that requests $10,000 in grant funds must have at least $5,000 in cash match. While the minimum match requirement is 1:1/2, competitive proposals will demonstrate broad-based financial support for the project and public funding sources adequately leveraged to seek and obtain private dollars.
Iowa businesses; schools; city or county government; and private 501(c)3 nonprofit agencies and foundations are eligible to apply. A single entity must be selected to serve as the primary applicant for grant funding applications; however, the project should include collaboration between a consortium of partners. The selected primary applicant must meet the definition of eligible applicant. The applicant will be responsible for submitting eligible material during funding application process and will be the entity legally obligated to the terms of an agreement if awarded funding. Partners and collaborating entities are not subject to the eligibility requirements but may be subject to financial and programmatic review during the selection process.
- Projects/programs must exist in and benefit a community in Iowa with a population of 20,000 or fewer and not contiguous (sharing a common border) to a city with a population of 40,000 or greater. If a county-wide application, must be within one of the 88 least populous counties in Iowa.
- Any eligible applicant may submit an application that includes one or more partners.
- Any eligible applicant will be allowed to submit one application per funding period. An applicant who has applied as the principal entity for an application may also be named as a partner on additional applications submitted but may not be named as a primary entity on additional applications.
- Applicant is local government entity (Mayor, city council, or county commission) or applicant has included letter of support from the mayor or resolution from the city council.
- Federally tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated and physically located in Iowa. Physical location of the organization is defined as maintaining a current home office and registered agent address in Iowa defined by Iowa Code 490.501, as well as maintaining a primary staff presence physically located and working in Iowa.
- Public and private schools that serve grades pre-K through 12 and are physically located in Iowa
- Nonprofit institution of higher education physically located in Iowa.
- Unit of local, county or federally recognized tribal government physically located in Iowa
- For-profit corporation or business located in Iowa. A business will be considered an Iowa business if the business is incorporated in the state of Iowa or authorized to do business in the state of Iowa.
Eligible Program Requirements
Program Requirements for Rural Return grant awards include, but are not limited to the following:
- Applicants shall demonstrate how the program incentives citizens to locate in their community.
- Applicants shall demonstrate they are eligible applicants.
- Applicants shall demonstrate the capacity for grant administration.
- Applications shall demonstrate the feasibility of completing the proposed activities with the funds requested and contract period.
- Applicant is local government entity (mayor, city council, or county commission) or applicant has included letter of support from the mayor or resolution from the city council.
- Applications shall identify and describe any other sources of funding for the proposed activities.
- Applications must provide a 1:1/2 cash match (grant can be up to 66% of total project cost).
Eligible Use of Funding
Eligible use of funds for Rural Return grant awards include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Planning and research costs
- Community training program development and implementation
- Equipment and electronics
- Personnel time dedicated to the program (Applicant must demonstrate how personnel time is specifically dedicated to the proposed project. Personnel benefits are not eligible.)
Ineligible Use of Funds
Funding for existing programs that do not include the significant expansion of the program are ineligible. The Rural Return Grant Program does not support ongoing expenses for existing programs.
Ineligible expenses include, but are not limited to:
- Payment or incentives to recipients
- International or Domestic travel (outside of Iowa)
- Routine, reoccurring maintenance
- Ongoing utilities
- Budget shortfalls
- Fundraising or benefit event activities
- Lobbying activity
- Prizes and awards
In the application, the applicant shall provide a timeline and the goals and objectives by which to measure the success of the project. The recipients’ success will be measured based on the progress towards the completion of each goal or objective as outlined in the application.
Each quarter, the recipient must provide an update on the percentage towards completion of each goal or objective and a narrative of the activities taken place in support of the goal or objective.
Recipients shall also provide a narrative description of any deviations from the proposed timeline, tasks and objectives during the reporting period. If the reported deviations will have an impact on the remainder of the project, the recipient must also notify the program manager via email.
- The final report will be submitted via IowaGrants within 120 days of the project completion date.
- The IEDA will withhold 5% of project funds until the final report is received and approved by the program manager.
- The final report shall contain the following information:
- Executive Summary
- Timeline of the completion of each goal or objective
- Narrative description of grant activities undertaken to support the project
- Narrative description of the achievements of the project
- The benefit the end product provides or will provide
- Budget narrative, detailing how funds were spent in support of the project
- Narrative description of any deviation from the original budget, timeline or any grant activity