Boston Fed, state of Vermont team up on effort to strengthen state’s rural towns, smaller cities Boston Fed, state of Vermont team up on effort to strengthen state’s rural towns, smaller cities

Vermont latest New England state to take part in initiative aimed at helping lower-income residents Vermont latest New England state to take part in initiative aimed at helping lower-income residents

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May 22, 2019

The state of Vermont and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston are teaming up to launch the Working Communities Challenge, an initiative aimed at strengthening Vermont’s rural towns and smaller cities.

The challenge is a three-year grant competition that brings together people from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to tackle problems affecting lower-income residents, such as poverty or lack of affordable housing.

Communities throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have won grants since the initiative launched as the Working Cities Challenge in Massachusetts in 2013. This is the challenge’s first foray into the northern New England states.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren made their joint announcement at the Barre Opera House in Barre, a city of about 9,000 in northern Vermont.

Scott said the program is a great opportunity to support economic development in ways that can benefit the entire state’s economy.

“I’m pleased that the Boston Fed’s Working Communities Challenge will give us another tool in the toolbox to help expand economic growth in our rural towns and villages,” he said.

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Vermont commits $100,000 to initiative

The Scott administration’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development has committed $100,000 toward the program’s implementation. The agency also led the way in recruiting other partners, who’ve pledged over $1 million to support the initiative.

Rosengren said he was excited about the challenge’s move north, and thanked the funding partners who made it possible.

“We’ve learned a lot during our Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island competitions, and I’m looking forward to seeing how those lessons can be adapted to the unique needs of Vermont’s communities,” Rosengren said.

Challenge replicates successful collaborative model 

As part of the initiative, communities across Vermont can apply for funds to address local economic issues. Applicants are encouraged to focus on sustainable development, increased economic opportunities, poverty reduction, and better social outcomes.

The initiative is built on Boston Fed research into small cities and towns in New England that have struggled economically over the past half-century. The research found that in the most successful communities, leaders from the private business, public, and nonprofit sectors collaborated on a shared, long-term vision for their community. The Boston Fed created the challenge to help communities do just that.

The challenge includes funding to support promising local work that focuses on increasing economic opportunities for residents.

A steering committee made up of public, private, and nonprofit leaders will design the structure for the competition, which is expected to begin later this year. The committee includes representatives from National Life Group Foundation, NeighborWorks America, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and the Vermont Community Foundation.

Eligibility criteria for communities, as well as information about the grant application process, will be released shortly.

Find out more about the challenge here.

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