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North Dakota governor announces $15M workforce grant initiative using federal COVID-19 aid

The program draws on previously appropriated funds from North Dakota's $1.1 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum fields questions during a Chamber-sponsored policy discussion on March 4, 2020, at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.
Forum file photo
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum debuted a $15 million grant program Wednesday, March 23, to target the state's problems of attracting and retaining workers, using funds from the state's federal pandemic aid.

The newly established North Dakota Regional Workforce Impact Program aims to offset the costs of local workforce solutions by funding groups that "design and implement innovative plans" that address workforce issues for North Dakota businesses. Funding for the program, which was appropriated during last year's special legislative session, comes out of the total $1.1 billion allocated to North Dakota through the Congressional American Rescue Plan Act.

Applicants eligible for the grant program include economic development organizations, incorporated cities, local chambers of commerce, job development authorities , regional councils and other organizations that address economic development at the local or regional level.

“Workforce remains our No. 1 barrier to economic growth in North Dakota. Strengthening our workforce through innovative, locally driven solutions supported by programs like RWIP will create a pathway to a stronger economy,” Burgum said in a statement.

The program reserves funding for each of eight designated regions, with maximal funding levels dependent on a region's 2020 U.S. Census populations. Up to two bordering regions can work together to combine projects and pool funding. The designated regions and maximum allocations are:

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  • Region 1 (Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties): $1,060,000  
  • Region 2 (Bottineau, Burke, McHenry, Mountrail, Pierce, Renville and Ward counties): $1,830,000 
  • Region 3 (Benson, Eddy, Cavalier, Ramsey, Rolette and Towner counties): $1,000,000 
  • Region 4 (Grand Forks, Nelson, Pembina and Walsh counties): $1,710,000 
  • Region 5 (Cass, Ransom, Richland, Sargent, Steele and Trail counties): $4,040,000 
  • Region 6 (Barnes, Dickey, Foster, Griggs, Lamoure, Logan, McIntosh, Stutsman and Wells counties): $1,020,000 
  • Region 7 (Burleigh, Emmons, Grant, Kidder, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sheridan and Sioux counties): $3,020,000 
  • Region 8 (Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark counties): $1,000,000 

Program participants must live in North Dakota, and proposals must fall into one of several categories, including training initiatives for in-demand jobs, infrastructure investments, child care or related support services, career coaching, investments for new or renovated spaces, housing projects and talent attraction for numerous industries.
The North Dakota Department of Commerce is accepting applications for RWIP grants at https://ndgov.link/RWIP and will host a virtual information meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 29. Those interested can submit questions before the session at commerce@nd.gov and learn more about the program at https://ndgov.link/RWIP .

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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