The Colorado Senate passed the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) grant program last week with bipartisan support. It now moves to the House.

The bill, SB20-002, would provide grants for projects in rural communities that create new jobs through a new employer or expansion of an existing employer. It would also support projects that create diversity and resilience in rural economies.

The bill defines a “rural community” as a county with a population of less than 50,000 residents or a municipality with a population of fewer than 25,000 that does not neighbor another municipality with a population of 25,000 or more.

The Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) will administer the grant program in collaboration with Colorado Office of Economic Development. Local governments will serve as grant administrators. Money for grants will come from the general fund.

Entities eligible to receive REDI grant program money include local governments, intergovernmental agencies, governmental councils, housing authorities, beginning farmers, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, nonprofit economic development organizations and private employers.

The bill requires DOLA to prioritize applications that would create new jobs. Grant recipients may be required to provide matching funds.

If DOLA determines a rural community requires resources or assistance because of a previous or upcoming significant economic event, the department may use all or a portion of the grant money to instead prioritize the Rural Economic Advancement of Colorado Towns Act.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan said the bill is estimated to go into effect in early August.

The executive director of the department is required to produce a report summarizing use of all money that was awarded as grants from the program in the preceding fiscal year.

Those interested can apply for a grant in the future through DOLA.

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