NASHVILLE – 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.

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.”

Each county will receive funding for specific programs local leaders feel can help address crucial workforce development needs in their areas.

“The members of the Tennessee Workforce Development Board want to do everything we can to give the residents in our rural communities the skills that will allow them to help themselves to better job opportunities,” said board chairman Tim Berry. “These grants should provide new resources to which they may not otherwise have access, and provide them another step upward in their livelihoods.”

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.

Money for the RIFOA comes from the Governor’s reserve of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA) funds. TDLWD will provide additional program guidance to the local workforce development boards which receive funding.

DISTRESSED COUNTIESIn Hancock County, $147.579 will be used for re-entry, customer service training, OSHA 10 training, and incumbent worker training in LEAN.

AT-RISK COUNTIESIn Grainger County, $33,686, and in Claiborne County, $40,352, will be used for work-based learning, rural transportation and re-entry for justice-involved individuals.

In Hawkins County, $34,767 will be used for re-tntry, OSHA 10, certified production training and certification, and work-based learning.