Communities seeking government assistance with regional development efforts must adapt to changing programs as Indiana responds to COVID-19. The Stellar Communities program has helped drive investment in Marshall County and the city of Culver, while Starke County has also applied for regional designation.
But the program was put on hold last year when the Office for Community and Rural Affairs shifted its resources to help communities respond to COVID-19. It remains on hold as state officials launch their new “HELP” program. Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch says it was specifically designed to help communities spend their share of the federal COVID-19 recovery funds.
“We have had so many small rural communities reaching out to OCRA, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, for help putting together projects and plans to use this money wisely, to meet federal government standards, but also to Put it in meaningful projects, ”Crouch told WKVI News.
But the contest program has different requirements than Stellar, including a $ 20,000 local match to fill a community coordinator position and a commitment of 30 percent of a community’s American Rescue Plan money. The constellation Region Starke does not apply for the HELP program, partly because of the difficulty of coordinating this regionally. Crouch says most communities seem to find HELP helpful, but OCRA is ready to make adjustments if necessary.
She stresses that the state continues to plan to bring the Stellar program back in the future. “We believe Stellar is a way of empowering our regions to come together and work together, have a vision and execute projects that move them forward,” says Crouch. “And Starke County has done a great job and they are on the verge of success, so we don’t want to take this program away.”
In the meantime, Crouch said, communities can also receive funding through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s new READI program.