Feds awards economic planning grants to US-affiliated Pacific islands
Commerce department lists Palau, Marshall Islands and FSM as 'territories'
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is awarding American Rescue Plan statewide planning grants to U.S.-affiliated jurisdictions — which include freely associated states identified in the announcement as "territories"— to support territory-wide economic development planning efforts.
“The Biden administration is providing states and territories the unprecedented opportunity to bring their communities together to develop comprehensive plans to build back better and stronger,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said.
“These statewide planning grants will be used to lay the groundwork for President Biden’s broader agenda to build resilient economies and increase U.S. competitiveness.”
Commerce officials said the funding will assist communities in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks, boost economic development, enhance U.S. competitiveness, combat the climate crisis, and recover from the pandemic
According to a press release from the department, the $5-million grant was distributed to the following "territories:" Federated States of Micronesia ($1 million); Northern Mariana Islands ($999,755); Marshall Islands ($1 million); Palau ($996,728) and U.S. Virgin Islands ($1 million).
While the CNMI and the U.S. Virgin Islands are both U.S. territories, Palau, FSM and Marshall Islands are sovereign nations that are freely associated with the U.S. through the Compact of Free Association.
The department said projects vary in scope based on locally driven needs.
For example, the FSM and Marshall Islands will utilize this funding to identify economic assets and resources to develop action plans to strengthen their economies. Palau will use the funding to incentivize business growth in Babeldaob, sustainably manage tourism or cultural sites, improve mobile and broadband coverage, and train businesses on pandemic safety.
With this announcement, all 59 states and territories have been awarded approximately $1 million grants through EDA’s Statewide Planning program – one of six programs EDA developed to equitably distribute its $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding.
“Planning is the backbone of economic development and building back better,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce. “EDA is proud to partner with state and territory leaders as they begin to tackle a wide range of challenges – including workforce training, business recruitment, capital access, infrastructure, broadband, entrepreneurial growth, economic diversification, and pandemic recovery – and develop a comprehensive plan for their entire state or territory that ensures communities work together toward a common economic development vision for the future.”