Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) Initiative



Application Deadline: Jun 20, 2024


Employment and Training Administration (ETA)


Awards grants to promote the training and employment of individuals in the economically distressed areas in the Appalachian, Delta, and Norther Border regions by implementing workforce development projects and economic development plans to create economic mobility, address historic inequities for marginalized communities of color, rural areas, and other underserved and underrepresented communities. Supports activities and planning to support and connect workers in eligible areas with stable, high-quality, family- sustaining jobs. WORC focus areas include:

  • Focus area 1: Increasing access to good jobs - programs that demonstrate how they are integrating the Good Jobs Principles into their workforce strategies, including training design, employer partnerships, and supportive services; applicants must specifically address the Good Jobs Principle: Pay y proposing strategies or activities that connect workers residing in the WORC region with training or employment opportunities in industry sectors that pay wages of at least $15 per hour
  • Focus area 2: Prioritizing equity - programs that prioritize efforts to recruit, enroll, and help employ historically underserved workers adversely affected by persistent poverty, discrimination, or inequality, including, but not limited to, Black, indigenous, people of color; LGBTQ+ individuals; women; veterans; individuals with disabilities; individuals without a college degree; individuals with substance use disorder (SUD); and justice-impacted individuals
  • Focus area 3: Sustaining impact - programs designed to sustain positive impacts for individuals, businesses and communities even after the end of the grant period that can manifest in various ways depending on the nature and purpose of the project, including but not limited to social impacts, economic impacts, environmental impacts, cultural impacts, or supporting efforts to align services across multiple counties or states.

Activities eligible for support under this opportunity include:

  • Workforce training, including work-based learning, classroom, or virtual training, that align with existing strategic plan or economic development priorities
  • Employment-related activities, such as assessment of employment barriers, developing individual employment plans, career planning, job coaching, and job matching services for dislocated workers, new entrants in the workforce, and incumbent workers who live in the Appalachian, Delta, and Northern Border regions
  • Supportive services that enable individuals to participate in career and training services and to gain or retain employment, including recovery coaches, job/career coaches, health navigator services, and other strategies to address substance use disorder,
  • Employer services to help small and medium-sized employers meet a wide range of workforce challenges and needs, including resources and training for employers to develop standards/processes for substance-use disorder or misuse recovery-friendly workplaces
  • Strategic planning activities to align community-focused workforce and economic development plans and strategies to promote and support economic transformation
  • Purchasing equipment, making renovations, and other capital expenditures that directly serve the employment and training needs of the target population

Proposals for capital improvement activities or equipment purchases must directly facilitate or address the employment and training needs of enrolled grant participants, including those described in the Focus Areas, as well as needs of dislocated or other workers in the communities served by the proposed project and require prior approval from the grant officer.

Amount of Funding

Award ceiling: $1,500,000 per year
Award floor: $150,000 per year
Project period: Up to 36 months
Estimated number of awards: 35
Estimated total program funding: $49,200,000

Who Can Apply

Applications may be submitted by:

  • State governments
  • County, city or township governments
  • Special district governments
  • State or local workforce development boards
  • Independent school districts
  • State or local education agencies
  • Public/State-controlled institutions of higher education
  • Federally recognized Native American tribal governments
  • Native American tribal organizations
  • Public or Indian housing authorities
  • Labor unions, worker organizations, or labor-management partnerships
  • Nonprofit organizations with or without 501(c)(3) status other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • Labor unions, worker organizations, or labor-management partnerships
  • Hispanic-serving institutions
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)
  • Minority-serving nonprofits

Applicants must demonstrate they will serve residents living in Appalachia, the Delta, and the Northern Border region. Applicants may train eligible participants for jobs located outside of the 3 targeted regions, including remote work, so long as the applicant can clearly demonstrate that employment in these occupations will not require participants to relocate outside the region.

Eligible applicants must demonstrate collaboration with a strong and diverse community-wide coalition that includes:

  • A minimum of 2 employers/industry representatives
  • At least 1 state or local workforce development board, American Job Center operator, or partner program
  • At least 1 community-based organization representing the community or communities covered by the proposed project to ensure local input is a part of the planning and execution of the grant

Geographic Coverage

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia

What This Program Funds

Buildings and Facilities • Capacity Building • Equipment • New Program • Operating Costs and Staffing

Application Process

Application instructions, requirements, and other information can be found in the funding announcement.

Additional information, resources, and technical assistance opportunities for applicants are available through WORC Initiative partner organizations:


For programmatic or technical questions:
Sabrina Guerrier

Rural Awards

Past awards rural communities have received in 2021 and 2022 are described on the program website.

Topics This Program Addresses

American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians • Community Planning and Coalition Building • Economic Development • Education and Training • Employment • Substance Use Disorder • Veterans • Women