A new pilot program is hoping to help rural communities get help from federal programs, NPR reports. More than 400 federal programs are designed to help rural communities with tranches of new funding coming from the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law, but for small-town mayors the process for obtaining those resources can evoke the stress of dating and filling out a health insurance reimbursement form.

“This is kind of like our one shot probably in my lifetime of ever getting this much federal money to help us make improvements in the community,” Jackson, Ky., Mayor Laura Thomas told NPR. Without experienced staff, she says, it’s ‘overwhelming’ to navigate the various options, adding “We just get a different kind of answer each time you ask. … And then my fear is that I won’t make the right decision.”

The Rural Partners Network, the new pilot program housed within the USDA and made up of 60 “rural desk officers” from 20 federal agencies, knows this and is working to lower barriers to access. “I like to say that we’re matchmakers when it comes to rural communities and our federal agencies that are at the table,” said Rachel Chambers, one of the community liaisons in Kentucky. “We can help move projects forward, whether it’s capacity building or technical assistance and different grant programs, or even if it’s just making an introduction for a community.” (NPR)