In our January newsletter, I used this space to discuss the finalization of the region’s five year plan, the Big Table Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). We used the newsletter as part of the launch of a 30-day public comment window, a time that yielded some really great input from a variety of stakeholders and citizens and a few adjustments to the narrative and overall plan. On March 2, the GPEDC Board of Directors adopted the Big Table CEDS as the framework for work from now through 2025. And just last week, we received notice that our CEDS was approved by the US Economic Development Administration (EDA).
As happy as we are to have the huge task of completing the plan behind us, now is not the time to rest. In fact, another big thing happened in March. On March 11, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal spending bill aimed at restoring the economy in the wake of the COVID pandemic. I will leave the debate of the merits and politics of the ARP to others, but what is not up for debate is that the bill will provide the region with some substantial resources. What great timing to have a playbook for economic recovery delivered nearly simultaneously with the ability to fund many of its strategies.
ARP provides funding to nearly every domestic function of the federal government, from education to health care to housing. And if you line up the strategies and tactics included in the CEDS, you will see direct sources of funding in ARP. Some of the crossover is obvious. Much of the CEDS is about supporting our businesses, both in recovering from COVID and growing into the future. Programs like Paycheck Protection, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and a new $25 billion program to help bars and restaurants are all designed to help in this regard. But there are other areas of the CEDS where federal help may soon be available. For example, the CEDS outlines that our rural communities need to be better served by broadband in order to remain attractive places to live as well as competitive places for business attraction and development. ARP provides $10 billion for rural broadband expansion.
At the local level, direct economic relief is being funneled directly to state and local governments. The county and municipal governments in the five Greater Peoria counties will receive nearly $200 million combined. While the rules for how this money can be spent are still being written, we know there will be a measure of flexibility that will allow local leaders to make smart investments in the local economy.
And finally, the EDA, under which GPEDC provides services like CEDS planning and economic recovery, was allocated $3 billion to invest in economic infrastructure projects that will help communities address the impact of COVID. This is twice as much as it was allocated under the previous CARES Act, and EDA has already invested $1 billion around the country. Our region has a great track record with EDA. Over the past decade nearly $10 million has been invested here with grants awarded to Illinois Central College, City of Peoria, Peoria and Tazewell counties and the City of Havana. More recently, we’ve worked with our partners to submit two grant applications that are connected to both our CEDS and battling the economic impacts of COVID: training people for new careers and helping people launch businesses. Illinois Central College submitted a $900K request that will help them expand training opportunities on their East Peoria and Pekin campuses. And Distillery Labs submitted a $2 million request to help fund the renovation of their downtown building into a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.
COVID has presented our region with unprecedented challenges. But the resources being deployed to address those challenges provide us with opportunities to be better. The Big Table CEDS outlines exactly the things that we believe are needed to move our economy forward. Let’s work together to discover which resources can fund these initiatives.