Rural Community Empowerment Programs
The Rural Community Empowerment Program represents a significant departure from traditional federal assistance programs:
- It addresses a comprehensive range of community problems and issues, including many that have traditionally received little federal assistance, reflecting the fact that rural problems do not come in standardized packages but can vary widely from one place to another;
- It represents a long-term partnership between the federal government and rural communities--ten years in most cases--so that communities have enough time to implement a series of interconnected and mutually supporting projects and build the capacity to sustain their development beyond the term of the partnership;
- It is based on a comprehensive strategic plan that identifies and prioritizes the principal issues within the community;
- It places great emphasis on partnerships with federal and state agencies, local and tribal governments, private businesses, foundations, and non-profits that engage the resources and commitments of these organizations to carry out portions of the community's strategic plan;
- It insists on broad-based citizen participation in planning, implementation, and evaluation of the community efforts to carry out its plan;
- It provides for local self-determination in setting priorities, and puts the federal government in the role of assisting communities with the priorities they have chosen and maintaining the integrity of the program local implementation; and
- It encourages area-wide approaches to local problem solving so that neighboring communities can benefit by pooling their limited resources of time, talent, and funding.
- It requires that communities establish performance benchmarks for each of their activities and report these regularly to the federal government.
Since the Congress enacted the empowerment program in 1993, 57 rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities, 220 Champion Communities, and 5 Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zones have been established. Altogether, they created or saved nearly 64,000 jobs and have raised an aggregate of more than $23 for every dollar drawn down from their designation. For most history on the program, visit background webpage.
For more information please visit the program at www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP-EZEC-Home.html.