Guest blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Applications are now being accepted for investments in regions experiencing severe economic distress as a result of natural disasters that were declared as major federal disasters between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2011. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration  (EDA) received an appropriation of $200 million from Congress to address economic recovery challenges in regions impacted by a major disaster.
More than 1,400 counties in 44 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia are eligible for the federal funding. Successful projects will support long-term economic recovery; demonstrate a clear connection between the project scope of work and the applicable disaster; demonstrate that the project will foster job creation and promote private investment; align with a relevant strategic, economic development, or disaster recovery plan; and demonstrate the incorporation of disaster resiliency. Applications are accepted on a continuing basis  and processed as received.
This funding will help local economies recover, attract businesses, and put people back to work. In general, disaster recovery funding at EDA falls into three categories:
Strategic Planning: funds that provide technical assistance, such as disaster recovery plans and strategies, or the hiring of disaster recovery coordinators.
Infrastructure Development: funds to help build new infrastructure—such as business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities, etc.—that will foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to an affected region.
Capital for Alternative Financing: funds that help a qualifying nonprofit or governmental entity establish a revolving loan fund to make below-market-rate loans to businesses.
The assistance that communities receive from EDA is often a vital element in catalyzing additional investments from the private sector. From 2009 to 2011, according to grantee estimates at the time of award, EDA disaster projects would leverage more than $12.3 billion in additional investments in communities affected by disasters.
EDA’s work in disaster recovery is part of a new government-wide way of improving disaster recovery—the National Disaster Recovery Framework —that was undertaken by the Obama administration in late 2011. Its purpose is to integrate disaster recovery expertise from across the federal government in order to better help affected communities rebuild. A key role for the economic portion of this effort is to facilitate economic recovery through bottom-up strategies that address the unique needs of an affected region.