Link to ARC home page.

ARC Project Guidelines


Introduction

On November 16, 2015, the Appalachian Regional Commission approved Investing in Appalachia, The Appalachian Regional Commission's Five-Year Strategic Plan for Capitalizing on Appalachia's Opportunities. Following adoption of the Plan, a revision of the ARC governing Code was undertaken to develop programs and policies to carry out the goals and objectives set forth in the Plan. Pursuant to Section 6.5 of the Code, the following project guidelines are established. The guidelines set forth the criteria for approval of ARC projects reflecting the requirements of the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 (ARDA), as amended, the ARC Code, and the provisions of the ARC Strategic Plan.

In accordance with Section 6.5 of the ARC Code, the Commission may, from time to time, approve additional Policy Statements concerning the implementation of Commission Area Development Programs. These Policy Statements will be included as appendices to these guidelines.

Appalachian Regional Development Act
The statutory criteria for approval of ARC projects are found mainly in Sections 223, 224, 225, and 303 of the ARDA (40 U.S.C. 14322, 14523, 14524 and 14525). Primarily, ARC approval requires a determination by the Commission that the project will contribute to the development of the Appalachian Region (Section 223). The pertinent provisions of these sections may be summarized as follows:

  • In approving a particular project, the Commission must also consider whether the project will improve, on a continuing rather than a temporary basis, the opportunities for employment, the average level of income, or the economic and social development of the area served by the project (Section 224).
  • The Commission must also consider the importance of the project or class of project in relation to other projects or classes of projects which may be in competition for the same funds (Section 224).
  • For each project, the Commission must consider the relative financial resources available to the applicant (i.e. its "ability-to-pay") (Section 224) and determine that there is adequate assurance that the project will be properly administered, operated, and maintained (Section 303).
  • To receive ARC approval, a project must implement the Development Plan of the Appalachian State in which it is located and it must have been identified by the state in its annual Strategy Statement (Sections 225 and 303).
  • Applications for ARC assistance are made through the state member of the Commission representing the applicant and are submitted to the ARC Federal Co-Chairman for approval. Approval requires a certification by the state member and a determination by the Federal Co-Chairman that the project meets the requirements for assistance (Section 303).
  • ARC grants that are administered for the Commission by a basic federal agency must also meet the applicable requirements of that agency (Sections 214 and 223).

ARC Code: General Project Approval Criterion
The strategic planning process undertaken by the Commission generated five goals that define social and economic conditions that must be created to realize ARC's vision. These goals now guide the Commission strategies and program investments. The ARC strategic goals are:

Goal 1—Economic Opportunities: Invest in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachias economy.

Goal 2—Ready Workforce: Increase the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents to work and succeed in Appalachia.

Goal 3—Critical Infrastructure: Invest in critical infrastructure–specially broadband; transportation, including the Appalachian Development Highway System; and water/wastewater systems.

Goal 4—Natural and Cultural Assets: Strengthen Appalachias community and economic development potential by leveraging the Regions natural and cultural heritage assets.

Goal 5—Leadership and Community Capacity: Build the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate, and advance community and economic development.

The ARC Code provides a single general project approval criterion to reflect the importance of its strategic goals. That criterion is found in Section 7.3 of the Code, which requires that each project for which ARC approval is requested be supported by a demonstration that it will contribute to the achievement of one or more of the Commission's strategic goals. (A limited exception to this criterion is recognized for individual projects that take advantage of special development opportunities or respond to emergency economic distress.)

Section 1—Objectives

The demonstration required by Section 7.3 of the Code may be accomplished most effectively by explaining how the proposed project moves the region closer to one or more of the objectives specifically identified for each goal area in the ARC Strategic Plan or additional objectives identified by a state in its Commission-approved Plan or Annual Strategy Statement. The Commission's objectives for each goal area are set out below.

Goal 1—Economic Opportunities–Objectives

  1. Strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems and support for existing busines.
  2. Support the startup and growth of businesses, particularly in targeted sectors.
  3. Enhance the competitiveness of the Region's manufacturers.
  4. Promote export strategies to connect startup and established businesses with external and global markets.

Goal 2—Ready Workforce–Objectives

  1. Develop and support educational programs and institutions to prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce.
  2. Support programs that provide basic and soft-skills training to prepare workers for employment.
  3. Develop and support career-specific education and skills training for students and workers, especially in sectors that are experiencing growth locally and regionally and that provide opportunities for advancement.
  4. Increase local residents' access to STEAM and other skills training on state-of-the-art technology and processes across all educational levels.
  5. Improve access to affordable, high-quality health care for workers and their families.
  6. Use proven public health practices and establish sustainable clinical services to address health conditions that affect the Region's economic competitiveness.
  7. Develop and support sustainable programs that remove barriers to participating in the workforce.

Goal 3—Critical Infrastructure–Objectives

  1. Promote the productive and strategic use of broadband and other telecommunications.
  2. Ensure that communities have adequate basic infrastructure to implemenet their community and economic development objectives
  3. Support the construction and adaptive reuse of business-development sites and public facilities to generate economic growth and revitalize local economies.
  4. Complete the Appalachian Development Highway System and construct local access roads to strengthen links between transportation networks and economic development.
  5. Invest in intermodal transportation planning and infrastructure that builds on the ADHS and maximizes the Region's access to domestic and international markets.

Goal 4—Natural and Cultural Assets–Objectives

  1. Preserve and strengthen existing natural assets in support of economic opportunities that generate local and regional benefits.
  2. Preserve and strengthen existing cultural assets through strategic investments that advance local and regional economic opportunities.
  3. Support strategic investments in natural and cultural heritage resources to advance local economic growth.
  4. Support preservation and stewardship of community character to advance local economic growth
  5. Enhance the energy efficiency of the transportation system.
  6. Develop a transportation system that enhances and preserves the Regions environmental quality.

Goal 5—Leadership and Community Capacity–Objectives

  1. Develop and support robust inclusive leadership that can champion and mobilize forward-thinking community improvment
  2. Empower and support next-generation leaders and encourage authentic engagement in local and regional economic and community development
  3. Strengthen the capacity of community organizations to articulate and implement a vision for sustainable, transformative community change.
  4. Support visioning, strategic planning and implementation, and resident-engagement approaches to foster increased community resiliance and generage positive economic impacts.
  5. Develop and support networks, partnerships, and other models of collaboration that catalyze public, private, and nonprofit action for community impact.

Section 2—Matching

In general, the Commission expects a recipient of an ARC grant to contribute its own resources to a project to the extent it is able to do so and to seek additional non-ARC funding assistance in a diligent manner.

The Appalachian Regional Development Act imposes matching requirements on ARC grants as described below. In addition to these statutory match requirements, however, the individual Appalachian States set forth in their Annual Strategy Statements their own cost-sharing and matching requirements, which may be more restrictive than the statutory limits in a particular instance.

2.1 ARDA Matching Requirements–General

  1. Generally, ARC grants are limited to 50% of project costs.
  2. For projects in ARC-designated distressed counties, this limit can be raised to 80%.
  3. For projects in ARC-designated at-risk counties, this limit can be raised to 70%.
  4. For projects located in ARC-designated competitive counties (those that are approaching national economic norms), funding is usually limited to 30% of project costs.
  5. ARC funding is usually not available for projects located in ARC-designated attainment counties (those that have attained or exceeded national economic norms).

2.2 ARDA Requirements–Miscellaneous

  1. LDD administrative grants may be funded at 50%, wherever the LDD is physically located, except that a state may request that the ARC participation be raised to as much as 75% for an LDD that includes a distressed county or counties within its service area and 70% for an LDD that includes an at-risk county or counties within its service area.
  2. Funding for work on the Appalachian Development Highway System is allowed at 80%, wherever the project is located.
  3. Funding for an access road project is allowed at 80% in distressed, at-risk and transitional counties. Funding is limited to 30% in competitive counties and is prohibited in attainment counties.
  4. Similarly, loans from an ARC Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) are restricted by the limit applicable to the county in which the project for which the loan is requested is located. (This rule does not apply to loans made with ARC RLF funds approved prior to November 13, 1998. Loans using such funds are restricted in accordance with the terms of the grant agreements under which they were made available.)

2.3 ARDA–Waiver of Restrictions on Projects in Economically Strong Counties

The restrictions on projects in competitive and attainment counties may be waived by the Commission upon a showing of (1) the existence of a significant pocket of distress in the part of the county in which the project is carried out or (2) the existence of a significant potential benefit from the project in one or more areas of the region outside the designated economically strong county in which the project is carried out. Waiver requests are made by the State Alternate representing the potential grantee, and such requests must be approved by the Federal Co-Chairman and State Alternates.

2.4 Multi-County Projects

Special matching rules apply to projects that are carried out in more than one county.

  1. If there is a distressed county in a project:
    1. and at least half the counties are distressed, the project may be funded at up to 80% of project costs;
    2. and at least half the counties are in some combination of distressed and at-risk, ARC assistance can be the higher of 70% of project costs or the average percentage applicable to the various counties in the project; and
    3. but fewer than half the counties are distressed, ARC assistance can be the higher of 50% of project costs or the average percentage applicable to the various counties in the project.
  2. If there is no competitive county or attainment county in a project, and at least half the counties are at-risk, the project may be funded at up to 70% of project costs.
  3. All other projects shall be funded at the average percentage applicable to the various counties in the project; except that the portion of a project, which is attributable to an attainment county in a project not including a distressed county, shall be considered ineligible for ARC assistance and may not be considered for matching purposes.

2.5 Discretionary Grant Authority

A limited amount of discretionary authority is made available to the Commission under Section 302 of the ARDA. Annually, the Commission allocates this authority to the Co-Chairmen's Committee and among the Appalachian States. The authority can be used to raise the statutory limits on ARC funding in projects implementing special regional initiatives approved by the Commission. It can also be used, with the approval of the Co-Chairmen's Committee, in instances of emergency economic distress. The discretionary authority, however, cannot be used to eliminate the funding restrictions on projects in competitive and attainment counties.

Section 3—Miscellaneous Requirements

3.1 The ARC Code (Section 8-4) also specifically restricts the use of ARC funds for:

  1. any form of assistance to a relocating industry or business (Section 224(b) of ARDA);
  2. recruitment activities that place a state in competition with another state or states; and
  3. projects that promote unfair competition between businesses within the same immediate service area.

3.2 The Code (Section 8-1 b) allows an ARC grant involving significant construction to be directly administered by the Commission only if the project will be managed by a Federal or State entity experienced in the management of federally funded construction projects.

3.3 The same Code section also prohibits grants made directly to a for-profit entity.

3.4 Generally, assistance for an operations project is not available beyond three years after the effective date, except that a state may request additional funding for such a project pursuant to Section 303 of the ARDA.

3.5 Commission approval of a project for construction, renovation or equipment must take place prior to the letting of any contract. Except for a project under Section 201 of the ARDA or as otherwise prohibited by law, a State may waive this requirement at its option upon a finding that conditions warrant such action. A State that waives this requirement shall immediately notify ARC of such waiver.

3.6 At the request of a state, the Commission may revoke or revise its approval of any project pursuant to Section 303 of the ARDA (excluding projects under Section 201) if the work intended to be assisted is not under way within 18 months after the date of approval of such project.

Section 4—Project Applications

To assist the Commission with the project evaluations required by the ARDA and the Code, all applications for ARC assistance should provide the following information and explanations:

  1. Identification and description of grantee.
  2. Identification and description of the area to be served by the project.
  3. A brief statement of the objective of the project and an explanation of its relationship to one or more of the Commission's Strategic Goals.
  4. A description of the project rationale, including a description of the needs and specific problems to be addressed by the project and a demonstration of the need for ARC financial assistance, including reasonable assurances that the project makes use of all available federal and non-federal funds. An application for an ARC-assisted construction project should include a discussion of any efforts that may have been made to improve the energy efficiency of the project.
  5. A detailed description of the work to be undertaken with grant and matching funds with pertinent budget information. Matching funds should be identified by amount and source with evidence of assurance that such funds are available. The application shall also provide reasonable assurance that there is management capability to carry out the project effectively.
  6. A description of the output and outcome benefits to be derived from the project with particular emphasis on the extent to which the benefits to the area being served by the project will be realized on a continuing rather than a temporary basis. Benchmarks and performance measures shall be identified for each ARC-assisted project using the following definitions:
    1. Output measures are indicators that count the goods and services produced by an individual or agency.
    2. Efficiency measures are indicators that measure the unit cost associated with a given output.
    3. Outcome measures are indicators that measure the actual impact of public benefit of the actions of an individual or agency.

Section 5—Local Access Roads

5.1 Authority

ARDA. The construction of local access roads in the Appalachian Region is authorized under Section 201 of the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965, as amended (ARDA). The ARDA authorizes the construction of up to 1,400 miles of local access roads that will serve recreational, residential, educational, commercial, or industrial sites, or facilitate a school consolidation program. ARDA Section 201 access road projects must be approved by the Commission, the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Projects are usually administered by the State Department of Transportation.

SAFETEA-LU. Funds authorized for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) program under Section 1101 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users may be used to construct Appalachian access roads (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59, Section 1116).

Section 214. A State may also use a portion of its ARC Area Development allocation to fund an access road project under Section 214 of the ARDA. Such a project must be authorized under another Federal grant program and will be administered by the basic Federal agency (HUD, EDA or Agriculture) having responsibility for such grant program. Project criteria and matching limits for ARC Section 214 projects are discussed in the ARC Project Guidelines.

5.2 Funding and Match.

The ARC Code allows Appalachian States to apply a portion of their ADHS funds to access road projects (Section 9.5.c). Annually, each State may use up to $300,000 from balances of funds that have been allocated to it for the ADHS for access road projects. Access road authority is not cumulative, but must be approved by ARC during the year of availability.

The maximum Federal participation in an Appalachian access road project is 80% in ARC Distressed and Transitional counties. Funding is limited to 30% of project costs in ARC Competitive counties and is prohibited in ARC Attainment counties.

5.3 Standards.

Section 201 of the ARDA requires Appalachian access road projects to be designed, constructed and maintained in accordance with the provisions of Title 23 of the U.S. Code. Section 109 of Title 23 allows road projects, such as access roads, that are not on the National Highway System, to be designed and constructed in accordance with State standards. ARC access roads are to be designed to accommodate the types and volumes of traffic that are anticipated for the 20-year period following construction.

5.4 Specific Project Criteria.

Section 9.6.b of the ARC Code provides criteria for specific types of ARC access roads:

Industrial, Commercial and Service Areas. Projects serving such areas must provide significant employment opportunities or otherwise meet the criteria set forth in an approved State Strategy Statement. A program for stimulating development in the area served by the project must be in existence, or specifically planned and funded. Such programs shall make provisions for necessary utilities, and shall be compatible with other development plans for the area.

Residential Developments. Projects may be approved to provide access to sites required to satisfy demonstrated needs for permanent housing.

Recreation Areas. Projects serving a recreational development must have a significant impact on the local economy. A program for stimulating development in the area served by the project must be in existence, or specifically planned and funded.

Educational Areas. Projects serving school consolidations or other educational activities shall be designed, wherever possible, to serve additional developmental objectives.

Timber Areas. Projects may be approved to facilitate the harvesting of timber lands which have significant commercial value. Priority shall be given to projects that complement other developmental activities serving the same areas.

5.5 Eligible Activities.

ARC local access road projects may provide funding for preliminary engineering, purchase of rights-of-way and construction. ARC funds are available for initial construction of local access roads but not for resurfacing, rehabilitation, upgrading or safety improvements on previously constructed ARC access roads. Eligibility of specific costs items are governed by the appropriate Federal-aid and State regulations for engineering, right-of-way and construction, including regulations pertaining to utility adjustments and accommodation.

5.6 Project Applications.

In addition to the information required by Section 5 of the ARC Project Guidelines, local access road project applications must include a certification by the State Department of Transportation that the project has been, or will be, included in the statewide transportation improvement program (STIP), that it meets state design criteria and that funds and obligation authority necessary for the project will be made available from the State's ADHS account for the project. The application should also include a description of the project including the roadway typical section(s), length to the nearest hundredth of a mile, pavement structure, and applicable design criteria, as well as a schedule for the completion of important project components.

Section 6—Regional Skills Partnerships

6.1 ARDA Authority

Section 205. Assistance to regional skills partnerships in the Appalachian Region in order to improve the job skills of Appalachian workers for a specified industry is authorized by Section 205 of the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965, as amended (ARDA). Section 205 grants are made and administered directly by the Commission. Section 205 contains eligibility criteria for grantees and projects that are summarized in these guidelines.

Other Authorities for ARC Job-Training and Skills Development Projects. A State may also use a portion of its ARC Area Development allocation to fund job-training and skills development projects under Sections 214 and 302 of the ARDA.

A project under Section 214 must be authorized under another Federal grant program and will be administered by the basic Federal agency having responsibility for such grant program. The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998, administered by the Department of Education, is mentioned specifically in Section 214, but other Federal grant programs for such assistance may also be available for ARC project funding. Project criteria and matching limits for ARC Section 214 projects are discussed elsewhere in these Guidelines.

Grants for such projects under Section 302 are made and administered directly by the Commission and are not subject to the eligibility restrictions of Section 205 grants.

6.2 Eligible Entities.

Section 205 funding is available only to a consortium established to serve one or more industries in a specified geographic area of the Region, which consists of representatives of businesses or a nonprofit organization that represents businesses, labor organizations, State and local governments, or educational institutions.

6.3 Eligible Activities.

In general, Section 205 funding is available for any project that is intended to improve the job skills of workers for a specified industry in a specified geographic area of Appalachia. The ARDA includes as eligible for funding under Section 205 the following types of projects; other types of projects, however, that meet the general eligibility criteria may also be considered for funding: (1) assessments of training and job skill needs for an industry; (2) development of curricula and training methods, including electronic learning or technology-based training; (3) identification of training providers and the development of partnerships between the industry and educational institutions, including community colleges; (4) development of apprenticeship programs; (5) development of training programs for workers, including dislocated workers; and (6) development of training plans for businesses.

6.4 Restriction on Administrative Costs.

A grantee consortium under a Section 205 grant may not use more than 10% of the grant funds to pay the administrative costs associated with its project. Administrative costs, however, may be used to supply the grantee's cost share obligations for its grant.

6.5 Project Applications.

In addition to the information required by Section 5 of the ARC Project Guidelines, regional skills partnership project applications must include a description of the consortium that is applying for the grant indicating the geographic area and the industry or industries it serves along with a listing of its members and their business or organizational affiliations. The project application must also indicate the specific industry for which it is designed to improve workers skills. Evaluation measures keyed to jobs created or preserved by the project must be included.

ARC Project Guidelines Contents