The state of Tennessee will use millions of dollars in grant money to help 38 distressed and at-risk counties across Tennessee bolster workforce development efforts. The funding was approved by the Tennessee Workforce Development Board and aligns with Governor Bill Lee’s rural initiatives.
The Rural Initiative Funding Opportunity Announcement (RIFOA) has made $3 million in funding available to local workforce development boards to support workforce expansion efforts in the targeted counties.
Areas receiving funding in the Northwest Local Workforce Development Area (LWDA) include Lake County, which the state considers distressed, and Obion, Weakley, Carroll, and Benton counties, which are at-risk.
Lake County will receive a large chunk of the funding which is $171,698.
The funding for the at-risk counties include: Carroll – $35,668; Benton – $40,172; Weakley – $36,929; and Obion – $41,433.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) accepted grant applications from the counties and determined the amount of funding each recipient would receive. The state’s 15 distressed counties will split $2.1 million of the $3 million in grant money, with the remaining $900,000 divided among 23 counties deemed at-risk by the state.
“In alignment with the Governor Lee’s priorities for Tennessee, we are excited to be able to make these funds available,” said TDLWD Commissioner Jeff McCord. “These grant dollars will foster the opportunity to develop and maintain a qualified workforce in the places where it is needed most.”
The grant money will fund programs for justice involved individuals and reentry advanced manufacturing in the Northwest LWDA.
Tennessee’s distressed and at-risk counties face workforce challenges that do not exist in the state’s urban and metropolitan areas. Often, local leaders in rural counties are forced to navigate workforce obstacles such as geography, demography and high demand for employees, but a low supply of a qualified workforce.
Programs funded by these grants will create greater opportunities for residents in these counties to take part in skills training in high-demand growth sectors.