Recompete Pilot Program - Tribal Consultation Summary

EDA held a Tribal Consultation on Thursday March 9, 2023, seeking input regarding the design and implementation of new programs authorized as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. EDA requested input from Tribal Leaders and their direct proxies; Alaska Native representatives also participated and provided feedback. Additional Tribal organizations were invited to view and listen to the presentation in a non-participatory role. Following a live discussion during the consultation, EDA also provided a dedicated email in box and voicemail so that additional feedback could be submitted up until March 23, two weeks after the event. In addition to the Tribal Consultation itself, participants were also able to submit written comments through the Recompete Request for Information (RFI) process, which occurred between February and March 2023.

For the Recompete Pilot Program, specific consultation was requested on how EDA might calculate Tribal eligibility and maximum funding amounts, based on formulas provided by the statute. As context, the statute requires use of a dataset from the Department of the Treasury (see 15 U.S.C. § 3722b(j)(9)) that is not currently available. To overcome this structural issue with a view towards minimizing additional burdens, participants were asked: 1) Should EDA provide Tribes an opportunity to submit the missing data on a case-by-case basis?, and 2) Should EDA use another data source as a proxy? Consultation participants also shared input on overall program design. EDA also invited comments on other EDA programs, including Tech Hubs and the 2023 Disaster Supplemental program.

Key takeaways from the responses include:

  • Statutory dataset: The data needed to determine eligibility and maximum funding amounts are not readily available to a majority of Tribes. Participants reported that there are significant obstacles to Tribes providing employment data of individuals living on the reservation, and while able to provide member enrollment data, Tribes often do not have employment data readily available for those living off the reservation. As a result, EDA has determined that all Tribal lands are eligible to participate in the program. EDA came to this determination based on available proxy unemployment data that indicates a high likelihood that Tribal lands have high Prime Age Employment Gaps (PAEG) that greatly exceed the statutory requirements.
  • Data collection: Respondents noted that the data required by the program statute would also be difficult to gather and expressed significant interest in receiving technical assistance to compile comprehensive Tribal data. Participants asked if Tribes might be able to provide and self-certify their own data sources, such as data from academic research, given many mainstream data sources are not fully accurate. In response to this feedback, EDA will accept other data sources from Tribes to support their eligibility and level of distress (though as noted above, all Tribal lands will be eligible by default for this program). Additionally, as part of the Strategy Development Grants provided through Phase 1 of the program, Tribal entities may use grant funds to collect data on the population of individuals ages 25 through 54 to determine PAEG. For Tribal entities, this includes collection of data related to such individuals residing on and off Tribal land consistent with the information requested in 15 U.S.C. § 3722b(j)(9).
  • Simplification: Respondents expressed a strong interest in a simplified application process. Many participants expressed resource constraints to pay upfront for the services needed to complete funding applications, particularly if they must submit more than one application. There was a common desire for a simple and standardized application process with transparent evaluation standards. EDA recognizes that distressed communities face bandwidth limitations – therefore, the program is designed to be as straightforward and customer-focused as possible to streamline the process for applicants. The competition will deploy funding in two phases, with each having its own Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) such that applicants who are not competitive for implementation funding receive early signals from EDA through the Phase 1 outcomes. Further, EDA has developed and released the Recompete Eligibility Mapping Tool, a user-friendly map that will allow Phase 1 applicants to determine if they are geographically eligible or not. To alleviate burden on applicants, EDA will also provide technical assistance between Phase 1 and Phase 2 applications in order to support development of implementation investment strategies.
  • Flexibility: Respondents recommended providing Tribes and Tribal organizations significant degrees of flexibility, both in the application period and in program implementation. Tribal Nations have unique needs and structures, and not all Tribes look the same or have the same economic development needs. For example, respondents expressed a wide range of barriers that exist to closing the PAEG in their communities, such as availability of transportation, daycare, and obtaining a driver’s license. As discussed in the NOFO, the program is designed to provide significant flexibility for applicants to address the necessary physical, social, and economic barriers to jobs and career pathways. Given the nature of the program, EDA understands there may be a suite of necessary interventions to increase employment, job quality, and wages, such as wraparound services. EDA will seek to be flexible, where possible, in activities that can be funded through the Recompete program. Applicants should clearly explain how the investments directly serve the purpose of the program and its intended economic development results.