An overview with exclusive tips!

Sometimes when we mention the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as an option for technology-related projects to our partner communities, we are met with a blank stare. As it turns out, not all community representatives know that this federal agency could be a possible avenue for project funding! EDA funding is one of the most flexible types of federal funds available, addressing a panoply of economic development issues. Communities that can successfully frame their projects through the economic development lens give themselves the opportunity to compete and often secure significant EDA grant awards.

From the EDA

To help representatives in our network of 50+ US Ignite Communities learn about the EDA and the funding they offer, we invited representatives from the Philadelphia Regional Office to present at our monthly US Ignite Communities call. Through this presentation, Linda Cruz-Carnall, regional director for the Philadelphia Office; Alma Plummer, economic development representative for DE, DC, and MA; and Lucan Martin, management and program analyst, provided an overview of EDA’s mission, programs, and upcoming funding opportunities.

They began with an explanation of EDA’s mission to “lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy.” The EDA is the only federal agency that focuses on regional ecosystems, leaning on collaborations to establish sustainable growth. Like other funding sources, the EDA’s work is grounded in Investment Priorities:

These priorities create a framework that ensures the grants awarded contribute to local efforts to build, improve, and better leverage economic assets in the region. Adhering to these investment priorities sets up regional economies for increased resiliency and success.

Spread across these priority areas, the EDA manages several programs through which cities and communities can secure funding. While a full detailed list and explanation of the different programs can be found here, communities should note that each program operates under different cycles – meaning not all opportunities are open at the same time. Moreover, those interested in pursuing EDA funding should also review the “Before you Apply for An EDA Grant” steps outlined on the EDA website. 


Tips on applying for EDA Funding

So, what do community leaders need to know about applying for and securing EDA funding?

The first thing to assess is eligibility. For–profits and individuals are not eligible for EDA funding, but the following groups are eligible:

  • District Organization
  • Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes
  • State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, including a special purpose unit of government (i.e., port authority), or a consortium of political subdivisions
  • Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education
  • Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State. NOTE: A letter of support from a political subdivision of a state is needed

Once eligibility is confirmed, those interested in EDA funding need to talk to their EDA representative BEFORE applying! There are six regional offices, and each covers large areas (e.g. The Philadelphia Regional office comprises 13 states, DC, and two territories.) Engaging in a conversation with EDA representatives can offer valuable feedback on the proposed project. US Ignite, for example, worked very closely with our EDA representatives to fine-tune our InnovateDMV and InnovateSLC proposals. The conversations helped set up our project for selection and success. 

The EDA funds different project types:

  • Construction
  • Non-construction
  • Planning
  • Technical assistance
  • Revolving loan fund


During the presentation, EDA representatives offered additional tips for interested applicants. On construction project proposals, the presenters said that since these are assessed by project readiness, the proposed project needs to be actionable within a reasonable timeline.

Additionally, the presenters shared information on the possibility of being designated an Economic Distress Region. To gain this designation, the applicant needs to meet a specific unemployment rate or specific per capita income rate or be determined as a “Special Need” by EDA. Once again, the best first step is to talk to an EDA representative about this designation as you prepare your proposal.

A question from the audience prompted the EDA representatives to dive deeper into fiber installation projects. The EDA does fund fiber installation projects, but they tend to focus on last-mile installations, and these usually fall under the public works or economic adjustment assistance programs. Those interested in this type of project should note that the NTIA has a lot more funds available for large-scale broadband implementation projects, and that the first step a proposer should take is to contact their EDA representative.

Lastly, the presenters notified our community leaders that the EDA is now using a new grants management system called Economic Development Grant Experience (EDGE). Funding applicants will need to submit proposals through this system- which promises to make the process run smoother than in the past.

Upcoming EDA funding opportunities

For the latest opportunities, check out the EDA website. Here are some of the opportunities we’ve flagged for smart community leaders in our network:

  • TECH HUBS -The Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Tech Hubs Program aims to leverage existing regional R&D and technology strengths to catalyze U.S. global competitiveness and leadership in critical technology areas. A new Fact Sheet is now available on the site!
  • RECOMPETEThe Recompete Pilot Program is meant to increase prime-age (25 to 54 years) employment and support long-term comprehensive economic development and job creation in persistently distressed communities. 
  • DISASTER SUPPLEMENTALThese funds will be awarded through EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program and will enable communities to recover from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, major wildfires and floods, and all other 2021 and 2022 declared natural disasters

If you have any questions about where to start, reach out to US Ignite or to your EDA representative. You can find your representative here.