Bringing the Economy Home

Rural Idaho Faces Diminished Federal Grant Dollars

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

This spring, Fairfield, Idaho was awarded a $500,000 grant to partially cover the cost of water system improvements.

Rural Idaho communities have struggled with high unemployment, stalled home construction, and shrinking school budgets since the onset of the recession.  Add to that list dwindling federal grant dollars.

StateImpact reported in April that funding for the Idaho Community Development Block Grant Program has been cut by a quarter in recent years, leaving the state with about $10 million this year.  When the first of four rounds of applications came in early this spring, Idaho communities already had requested nearly $9 million. 

“We run into more demand than dollars,” Dennis Porter of the Idaho Department of Commerce observed at the time.

Last week, the state’s Economic Advisory Council got an update on how much funding will be available to communities between now and next April.  The amounts allotted for senior and community centers and public facilities — a total of nearly $5.6 million — are already gone.  Left is $3.4 million set aside for economic development and imminent threat projects.

Bannock, Latah, and Idaho counties requested imminent threat grants to help them repair roads damaged by floods and wildfires earlier this year.  The council put the Idaho County request on standby, believing other funding sources might be available, Department of Commerce spokeswoman Megan Ronk said in an email.

Idaho County requested $78,000 to cover the cost of an engineering study on a main road that saw a large landslide in late March.  The Clearwater Economic Development Association’s Kelly Dahlquist, who prepared the county’s application, says she doubts another funding source will be easy to come by.

“Idaho County — they get hit with a lot of natural disasters,” Dahlquist says.  “Their resources have been so tapped out.”


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