Enabling rural communities and Native Nations to access and implement federal funding

A generational opportunity, a rural approach

Federal funding is flowing at unprecedented levels — for infrastructure, economic development, workforce, climate, and energy — and we have a generational opportunity to make sure it lands where it’s most needed: in small towns and Native Nations.

In order for our country to realize the full potential of this funding, we need rural communities fully engaged in creating jobs, driving economic resilience, and preparing for a more secure future. Resource Rural, a Heartland Fund initiative, is acting quickly to match rural communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities, with the resources often accessible only to the US’s metro areas. In small towns, across Native Nations, and in hollers across the country, our partners are helping rural communities land resources that can dramatically improve the quality of life for residents, advance climate solutions, and send a powerful message about the importance of federal investment to creating strong local communities and a healthy multiracial democracy.

Group at ribbon cutting
MI Lakeshore Die Cast owner Adam Schaller uses Rural Energy For America for cost savings and job growth. The REAP program expanded through the Inflation Reduction Act.
Core Areas of Work

Four strategies to meet this unprecedented moment

  1. National Hub and Local Resource Partners
  2. High-Leverage Climate Opportunities
  3. Storytelling and Communications Support
  4. Advocacy and Organizing

National Hub and Local Resource Partners

Resource Rural’s National Hub is working with partners across the country to enable rural and Indigenous communities to access federal dollars.

Resource Rural works locally. To us, that means collaborating with the folks who are already doing the work, so that we can accelerate existing efforts and avoid duplication. Our network of local resource partners — community-based organizations, community development financial institutions, regional hubs — knows their communities best and is ready to dive in and drive with project design, partnership development, grant proposals, and implementation. With the support of the National Hub’s experienced and knowledgeable staff, we build lasting partnerships that we can all return to year after year.

High Leverage Climate Opportunities

In collaboration with leadership at the Rural Climate Partnership, Resource Rural climate strategies energize rural-led climate solutions. This partnership stimulates a virtuous cycle in which people learn about and access the tools and opportunities provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and CHIPS and Science Act to create jobs, diversify local economies, generate energy security, and strengthen resilience.

  • Drive clean energy transformation in coal-intensive rural electric cooperatives, including working with co-op boards to encourage them to access resources made available through IRA.
  • Advance climate-forward agriculture and conservation by reaching farmers with information about soil-building, cost-saving, and climate-friendly practices that the IRA provides $20 billion in funding to incentivize.
  • Tackle barriers to clean energy siting to access billions in IRA and BIL funding to support the build-out of renewable energy projects, the vast majority of which will be in rural areas.
  • Unlock the power of the IRA’s direct-to-consumer incentives, rebates, and tax credits to empower rural homeowners and businesses to realize energy and cost savings while reducing GHG emissions.

Storytelling and Communications Support

In small towns and cities, Native nations, and rural counties, people are working together to use federal funding to make good things happen in their communities. A berry farmer in Minnesota installs a solar array on his barn roof using Rural Energy for America Program funding. A coastal community in Mississippi creates a flooding mitigation plan with funds from the Inflation Reduction Act. A college on the Navajo Nation uses American Rescue Plan Act funds to create a mill to process Diné wool using traditional methods. Across the country, rural people are looking out for each other and towards the future, while federal funding provides them the tools to see projects realized.

These stories don’t often get documented and shared. Resource Rural will address this gap by working directly with local organizations to identify stories and talk with local people to hear in their own voice why they’ve taken on this work and what they’ve achieved in their community. By documenting and sharing these stories, Resource Rural will ensure communities and local people see that our contributions are recognized and valued, and that more people learn about the inspiring ways in which rural and Indigenous people are using federal investments to make the places we live in and love stronger.

In addition to storytelling, as Resource Rural grows, it will find ways to provide support to our partners and build their communications capacity.

Minnesota berry farmer Stuart Lavalier recently installed a solar array on his Minnesota farm thanks to a REAP grant.

Advocacy and Organizing

Rural community members understand better than anyone else what our own communities need to thrive. But without advocacy and organizing, their voices are not always heard. 

New federal programs create enormous opportunities to bring communities’ visions for lower utility bills, good jobs, affordable housing, and much more to life. However, it can be difficult for local organizations to stay on top of new federal programs and track their implementation.  For many federal programs, states will be making decisions about how the funding gets allocated. 

Without a concerted engagement from community members, some states and local governments may not participate in funding programs. Or if they do — they may structure programs in a way that makes it hard for rural communities to benefit. 

Resource Rural provides organizations and coalitions with the advocacy resources and organizing support they need to ensure that federal funding is invested in rural communities, especially those most in need.

Improving the Lives of Hardworking People

Resource Rural will leverage billions of dollars for underinvested rural communities to support dynamic and impactful projects. In addition to the dollars raised, Resource Rural builds rural community capacity, diversifies rural economies, grows civic power, shifts narratives, attracts philanthropic investment, and documents learning.