What you need to know about the CARES Act funds through EAA

June 30, 2020 | Ed Barrett

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (Public Law 116-136) provides the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”  EDA works directly with communities to catalyze locally developed strategies to build capacity for economic development based on local business conditions and needs. These funds were appropriated under the Economic Adjust Assistance (EAA) program. The EAA program provides a wide range of technical, planning, and public works and infrastructure assistance in regions experiencing adverse economic changes that may occur suddenly or overtime.

Who is eligible

Eligible applicants under the Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program include:

  1. EDA-designated District Organizations
  2. Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
  3. States, counties, cities, or other political subdivisions of a State, including special purpose units of State or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities
  4. Institutions of higher education
  5. Public or private non-profit organizations acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State

What is eligible

To be eligible for EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants, applicants must explain clearly how the proposed project would “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus”

  1. Projects that consider economic recovery, in general, must address the direct consequences of the coronavirus pandemic itself.
  2. The extent to which a proposed project responds to needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic is one factor that EDA will consider when evaluating applications for funding.
  3. EDA generally expects to fund at least 80%, and up to 100%, of eligible project costs. To fund above 80%, EDA will consider:
    1. Whether the applicant has exhausted its effective taxing or borrowing capacity
    2. The extent of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the region
    3. Whether the region meets other thresholds for elevated need based on the relative economic distress of the region

Examples of projects that EDA may fund through under the CARES ACT include:

  1. Economic recovery planning and technical strategies to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic
  2. Preparation of resiliency plans to respond to future pandemics
  3. Entrepreneurial support programs to diversify economies
  4. Innovation grants focused on technology innovation activities that will help communities prevent, prepare, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

How Cares Act Funds will be awarded

EDA is making the majority of CARES Act funds available through an addendum to the FY 2020 Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). You can find the NOFO at by searching for the Opportunity Number “PWEAA2020.”  The CARES Act Recovery Assistance Addendum is on pages 46–50 of the NOFO.

EDA will award CARES Act funds through its Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, which is EDA’s most flexible program.  Grants will be awarded using three separate, parallel processes:

  1. Competitive awards through EDA’s Regional Offices are similar to the normal process. Applicants will submit to the regional office
  2. Non-Competitive awards – Invitation only
  3. Competitive awards through EDA Headquarters

How to apply

As with much of the CARES Act funding, time is of the essence. Applications are already being processed, and awards will continue to be made until funds are depleted. While the funding pool is large, the money will be allocated quickly—so applications should be prepared and submitted as quickly as feasible.

The procedures to apply for competitive grants through EDA’s Regional Offices can be found on pages 18–28 of the FY2020 PWEAA NOFO. Applicants may apply online through by searching for Opportunity Number PWEAA2020. All required forms are available at or through their state Economic Development Representative.

All applications for CARES Act Recovery Assistance projects must explain how the project will meet EDA’s Recovery and Resilience investment priority. The applicant may also explain how the proposed project will meet any of EDA’s other investment priorities. EDA’s investment priorities can be found at:

Except for a “Strategy Grant,” each proposed project must be consistent with the region’s current Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Contact your regional office to see if a CEDS exists in your region at If a region does not have a CEDS, EDA may be able to accept an alternate regional economic development strategy.

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