Funding Alert! Assistance for Rural Microentrepreneurs

United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development

Attention rural microentrepreneurs and the organizations that support them! The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting proposals for its 2021 Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). The goal of RMAP is to support the development and success of rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises. It accomplishes this by providing loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) that provide technical assistance and financial services to eligible rural businesses. RMAP applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, with due dates occurring at the end of each quarter, from September 30, 2021 through June 30, 2022.

Who is eligible to apply?

Nonprofits, federally recognized tribes, and institutions of higher education are eligible to serve as an MDO. A business applying for a loan from the MDOs must qualify as a “microenterprise,” meaning that it has 10 or fewer full-time employees, and be located in a rural area.

What are the program details?

Through RMAP, USDA awards loans and grants to MDOs that provide technical assistance and training, serve as a microloan lender for startups and growth, and facilitate access to capital for microentrepreneurs and microenterprises. Grants for MDOs to deliver technical assistance and training are available for up to $205,000 per year, with a required non-federal matching contribution of at least 15%. MDOs may receive loans of $50,000 to $500,000 to establish a Rural Microloan Revolving Fund, with total aggregate debt capped at $2.5 million. The maximum term on these loans is 20 years.

MDOs may provide eligible rural businesses with microloans of up to $50,000 (no more than 75% of the total project cost). This funding can be used for debt refinancing, working capital, purchasing equipment and supplies, improving real estate, and more.

What makes a project a good fit?

Potential MDO organizations should demonstrate experience in managing a revolving loan fund, certify that their employees have the training and capacity to manage such a revolving loan fund, or demonstrate that they are an active and successful intermediary lender in good standing with the Small Business Administration or similar loan program.

In addition, for the purposes of this program, rural areas are defined as having populations of 50,000 or less. The business’s headquarters may be located in a larger city, as long as the project service area is considered rural. Check out USDA’s tool for determining the eligibility of specific addresses.

What if I am ready to apply? To move your project forward, take the following action steps as soon as possible:

  • Review the full program solicitation for additional details and review criteria.
  • Determine whether there are any requirements or other program information specific to your state. You can check this at the USDA’s RMAP program page.
  • Contact your local state office to speak to the relevant program officer. They can answer any questions about the process and direct you to the correct forms for your state.
  • Make sure your System for Award Management (SAM) registration is active and be sure you have agov profile. You can check your SAM status here:

What if I need help with this application?

Contact Assel Grant Services (AGS) today! Our team can help with all aspects of preparing the application and managing the grant if you are awarded. If you would like to discuss this possibility, please contact AGS as soon as possible. Rosie Brennan, Community Engagement Specialist, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you a quote for grant services.

What if I am not ready to apply this year?

Start preparing for next year! The USDA’s Rural Development office also has a variety of other programs and funding opportunities available that might be a good fit. The office’s website has ample resources and descriptions of available or upcoming opportunities.

How do I learn more about federal grant proposal writing, so my application is more likely to be successful?

AGS is excited to offer a new Federal Grants Training Series throughout 2021! The series is designed to support nonprofit leaders and faculty at institutions of higher education before and during the application process. AGS also offers several on demand webinars on a variety of topics to support the full grant cycle. Check out our website to learn more and sign up for our training newsletter.

AGS blogs, funding alerts, and trainings are aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills

Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs

Skill 1.2: Identify major trends in public funding and public policy

Skill 1.6: Identify fundable programs and projects for specific organization

Skill 1.7: Determine best matches between funders and specific programs