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Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) Initiative


Additional Links

Notice of Funding Opportunity (


Application Deadline: Jul 21, 2021

Sponsoring Organization

Employment and Training Administration (ETA)


Awards grants to promote the training and employment of individuals in the economically distressed Appalachian and Delta regions by implementing workforce development projects. Supports locally developed strategies to prepare workers for good quality jobs in high-demand occupations. Seeks to address the impact of the opioid crisis on communities' workforce and align workforce activities with regional or community economic development strategies to strengthen employment opportunities and promote long-term economic success.

Activities eligible for support under this opportunity include:

  • Training and work-based learning models that align and integrate workforce development activities with existing state, regional, or community economic development strategies
  • Employment-related activities, such as skills training, developing individual employment plans, career planning, job coaching job placement, and matching services for dislocated workers, new entrants in the workforce, and incumbent workers who live in the Appalachian and Delta regions
  • Innovative, sustainable service delivery strategies addressing issues impacting the economy and workforce within each region
  • Participant support services that enable individuals to participate in career and training services and to gain or retain employment
  • Employer support services to industries and employers, especially small and medium-sized employers, to help them meet regional workforce challenges and industry needs
  • 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 demonstrate how the project will meet WORC objectives and require prior approval from the grant officer.

Applicants are encouraged to propose strategies that can help achieve economic opportunity and address historical inequities. Examples include:

  • Promoting racial equity through services that provide equitable access and outcomes to communities of color, immigrants, and other marginalized groups, especially those that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Supporting program participants impacted by substance use disorders (SUDs)
  • Utilizing flexible models that include in-person, virtual, socially distanced, and hybrid approaches to deliver services and training
  • Serving communities that currently or historically have had high concentration of employment in energy extraction and related industries

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: 30
Estimated total program funding: $29,200,000

Who Can Apply

Applications may be submitted by:

  • State governments
  • County, city or township governments
  • Special district governments
  • Regional organizations
  • State or local workforce development boards
  • Independent school districts
  • Federally recognized Indian tribal governments
  • Indian tribal governments other than federally recognized
  • Indian tribally designated organizations
  • Public or Indian housing organizations
  • Nonprofit organizations with or without 501(c)(3) status
  • Public/State-controlled institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • Hispanic-serving institutions
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)

Applicants must demonstrate they will serve residents living in the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and/or Delta Regional Authority (DRC) regions. Applicants may train eligible participants for jobs located outside of the ARC and DRC regions, 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 or engagement with a public workforce system partner and at least two employer/industry partners serving the economic, workforce development, and other community needs addressed by the proposed project.

Geographic Coverage

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

What This Program Funds

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

Application Process

Application instructions and other information about the online application process are available in the funding announcement.

Applicant webinar recording, slides, and transcript


For programmatic or technical questions:
Jenifer McEnery

Rural Awards

Past awards rural communities have received in 2019 and 2020 are described on the program website.

Topics This Program Addresses

Community Planning and Coalition Building • COVID-19 Response • Economic Development • Education and Training • Employment • Opioids • Substance Use Disorder