Notwithstanding any other law, and to the fullest extent possible, the member agencies and organizations of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) as defined in s. 288.0656(6)(a) shall review all grant and loan application evaluation criteria to ensure the fullest access for rural counties as defined in s. 288.0656(2) to resources available throughout the state.
(1) Each REDI agency and organization shall review all evaluation and scoring procedures and develop modifications to those procedures which minimize the impact of a project within a rural area.
(2) Evaluation criteria and scoring procedures must provide for an appropriate ranking based on the proportionate impact that projects have on a rural area when compared with similar project impacts on an urban area.
(3) Evaluation criteria and scoring procedures must recognize the disparity of available fiscal resources for an equal level of financial support from an urban county and a rural county.
(a) The evaluation criteria should weight contribution in proportion to the amount of funding available at the local level.
(b) In-kind match should be allowed and applied as financial match when a county is experiencing financial distress through elevated unemployment at a rate in excess of the state’s average by 5 percentage points or because of the loss of its ad valorem base.
(4) For existing programs, the modified evaluation criteria and scoring procedure must be delivered to the department for distribution to the REDI agencies and organizations. The REDI agencies and organizations shall review and make comments. Future rules, programs, evaluation criteria, and scoring processes must be brought before a REDI meeting for review, discussion, and recommendation to allow rural counties fuller access to the state’s resources.