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Deadline for USDA Funds for Native Businesses Is Soon

American Indian tribes can apply for nearly $4 million in USDA funds for startup or expansion of private rural businesses and nonprofits.

American Indian tribes can apply for nearly $4 million in Department of Agriculture funds for startup or expansion of private rural businesses and nonprofits. But they had better hurry—the deadline is Friday, May 8 at 4 p.m., a month earlier than the deadline for non-Native applicants.

The money can be used in a number of ways directly beneficial to Indian country. These include in some cases the establishment of revolving loan funds which could provide business capital for new or existing private Native businesses, job training, acquisition and development money to buy land or buildings, and infrastructure funds for roads, parking, water and wastewater facilities.

The reason for the differing deadlines (June 12 for general applicants) apparently is that there is a Native setaside for the Rural Business Development Grant program authorized as part of the 2014 Congressional farm bill. In addition to the nearly $4 million available in the Native setaside, there is $22 million available in the general part of the funding.

Native grants will be awarded on the basis of a nationwide competition while the general money will be allotted to states.

The RBDG program combines two previous programs. According to the Rural Development arm of USDA, “The new program, like its predecessors, is designed to assist with startup or expansion of small and emerging private businesses and/or nonprofits in rural communities.”

Applicants can contact RD Community Economic Development Coordinator Jeff Hays at (928) 759-9301, extension 103 or by email at jeff.hays@az.usda.gov.

The Federal Register for March 25 contains a useful outline of items tribes should include in applying for the grants. These include copies of organizational documents; a proposed scope of work, including a description of the project, details of the proposed activities to be accomplished and timeframes for completion, the number of months duration of the project, and the estimated time it will take from grant approval to beginning of project implementation.

A written narrative must be supplied that includes why the project is needed, and its benefits; how it meets grant eligibility; area to be served; how the project will coordinate economic development activities with other ED activities within the project area; business to be assisted, if appropriate, and economic development to be accomplished; how the project will provide newly created, increased, or supported jobs in the area and the number of projected jobs within the next 3 years; a description of the applicant's capability and experience including: experience of key staff members and persons; the method and rationale used to select the areas and businesses that will receive the service; and a brief description of how the work will be performed, including whether organizational staff or consultants or contractors will be used.

RD will also require the latest three years of financial information to show the applicant's financial capacity to carry out the proposed work. If the applicant is less than three years old, at a minimum, the information should include all balance sheet, income statements and cash flow statements. A current audited report is required if available; also documentation regarding the availability and amount of other funds to be used in conjunction with the funds from the RBDG; and a budget which includes salaries, fringe benefits, consultant costs, indirect costs, and other direct costs.