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Four Vermont Communities Receive Economic and Workforce Development Grants

Vermont Governor Phil Scott recently joined officials from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to announce grants intended to strengthen local economies to four areas of the state.

The Working Communities Challenge Grants are 3-year $300,000 implementation grants distributed to rural towns and small cities to help support projects addressing local needs.
The process to obtain the grants has taken three years with 27 communities competing for the four grants.                   
Agency of Commerce and Community Development Deputy Secretary Ted Brady said this is the first time the grants are being awarded in Vermont.  “The communities have been engaged in a really collaborative effort to tackle problems, field plans and test plans over the past six months in virtual formats. It’s been a really wild ride. This is something that was launched down in southern New England that we’re now bringing to northern New England and Vermont is the first rural area to try to take on this unique approach to changing systems to make the work better for all Vermonters and all rural residents. It supports community leaders across sectors leading non-profits, municipalities, business leaders to tackle large, complex and persistent problems.”

Governor Phil Scott announced the four communities and regions in Vermont that will receive the grants.  “The communities of Greater Barre, Lamoille County, the Springfield area and Winooski. Programs like the Working Communities Challenge are essential in overcoming our economic challenges that we know are likely to hit many of the smaller communities throughout Vermont the hardest. And the fact is this program was incredibly important even before the pandemic hit because one of our top goals has been to expand economic growth to smaller communities across the state. These grants will help increase economic equity throughout the state so there are more opportunities for Vermonters in all 14 counties and 251 towns.”

Each community has different goals.
The Springfield area plans to match the unemployed and underemployed with jobs.
The Barre grant will be used to reduce the number of single women head of households in poverty by 15% over the next decade.
Lamoille County plans to eliminate barriers to employment and bring its unemployment rate below the state average by 2024.
Winooski will hire an equity director and work with its diverse and New American population to increase community engagement.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said while the pandemic is a difficult time to do this kind of work, it’s also the most important time.  “Focus on the communities and focus particularly on those that have been hardest hit by the pandemic is critically important. Low and moderate income individuals in our communities have clearly been disproportionately affected by what’s happened and we need to find creative ways to get to a better outcome. Each community has its own particular assets and advantages and I think each of these communities have very specific proposals that are unique in really talking how we can have access to good jobs, to good infrastructure and a better way forward as this pandemic goes into the rear view mirror.”

The grants are part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Working Places Program and the Vermont grants are an expansion of the challenge grants, which started in 2013.  The Vermont awards include an additional $700,000 in planning, action and evaluation grants.