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SEARCH - Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households

Detailed information about this program is below:

Category Information About This Specific Program
Title SEARCH - Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households
Purpose This program helps very small, financially distressed rural communities with predevelopment feasibility studies, design and technical assistance on proposed water and waste disposal projects.
Type of Assistance Grant
Eligible Applicants

Utilities Serving Colonias, Indian Tribal Governments, Local Governments, Nonprofit Groups, State/Territorial Agencies, Universities

Areas to be served must be rural and financially distressed:

  • Rural areas with a population of 2,500 or less
  • Have a median household income below the poverty line or less than 80 percent of the statewide non-metropolitan median household income based on latest Census data.
Eligible Activities

To pay predevelopment planning costs, including: feasibility studies to support applications for funding water or waste disposal projects; preliminary design and engineering analysis; technical assistance for the development of an application for financial assistance.

The predevelopment planning costs must be related to a proposed project that meets the following requirements:

  • Construct, enlarge, extend or improve rural water, sanitary sewage, solid waste disposal and storm wastewater disposal facilities.
  • Construct or relocate public buildings, roads, bridges, fences or utilities, and to make other public improvements necessary for the successful operation or protection of facilities.
  • Relocate private buildings, roads, bridges, fences, or utilities, and other private improvements necessary for the successful operation or protection of facilities.

Excluded Activities/Other Restrictions

Grant funds may not be used to:

  1. Fund political or lobbying activities.
  2. Pay for work already completed.
  3. Purchase real estate or vehicles, improve or renovate office space, or repair and maintain privately owned property.
  4. Construct or furnish a building.
  5. Intervene in the Federal regulatory or adjudicatory proceedings.
  6. Sue the Federal Government or any other government entities.
  7. Pay for any other costs that are not allowable under title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 200, 215 or 220.
  8. Make contributions or donations to others.
  9. Fund projects that duplicate technical assistance given to implement action plans under the National Forest Dependent Rural Communities Economic Diversification Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6613). Applicants cannot receive both grants made under this part and grants that the Forest Service makes to implement the action plans for five continuous years from the date of grant approval by the Forest Service.
  10. To pay an outstanding judgment obtained by the United States in a Federal Court (other than in the United States Tax Court), which has been recorded. An applicant will be ineligible to receive a loan or grant until the judgment is paid in full or otherwise satisfied.
Pre-Funding Requirements (if applicable) Not applicable
Typical Award Amount (if applicable) The Secretary may use not more than four percent of the total amount of funds made available for a fiscal year for water and waste disposal activities for SEARCH grants. The Secretary may fund up to 100 percent of the eligible grant costs, not to exceed $30,000.
Total Awarded Fiscal Year 2018 (if applicable) $2,365,045 for 89 SEARCH grants 
Match Requirement (if applicable) None

Solicitation Process/Timeline

Applications for this program are accepted year round through your local Rural Development (RD) office. Program resources are available online (includes forms needed, guidance, certifications, etc.).

Proposal Elements/Scoring Criteria

Projects will be selected based primarily on the funding priorities in 7 CFR section 1780.17. The Program Official discretionary points stated in 7 CFR section 1780.17(e) can also include consideration of the following criteria:

(a) Systems with limited resources.
(b) Smallest systems with lowest incomes.
(c) Funds availability.

Contact Information (primary contact and website or other source)

Local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office

Water and Environment Program (WEP) SEARCH Grant web page

Website Information About Successful Tribal Applicants/Projects

Not Applicable
Headquarters Office

Rural Development – Rural Utilities Service
Water and Environmental Programs
1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Stop 1548
Washington, D.C. 20250

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