Section 288.0656, Florida Statutes, defines a rural county as:

  • A county with a population of 75,000 or less;
  • A county with a population of 125,000 or less which is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or less and
  • Any municipality within a county as described above

The following counties are eligible to request a reduction or waiver of match:

  1. Baker
  2. Bradford
  3. Calhoun
  4. Columbia
  5. DeSoto
  6. Dixie
  7. Flagler
  8. Franklin
  9. Gadsden
  10. Gilchrist
  11. Glades
  12. Gulf
  13. Hamilton
  14. Hardee
  15. Hendry
  16. Highlands
  17. Holmes
  18. Jackson
  19. Jefferson
  20. Lafayette
  21. Levy
  22. Liberty
  23. Madison
  24. Nassau
  25. Okeechobee
  26. Putnam
  27. Suwannee
  28. Taylor
  29. Union
  30. Wakulla
  31. Walton
  32. Washington


An unincorporated federal enterprise community or an incorporated rural city with a population of 25,000 or less and an employment base focused on traditional agricultural or resource-based industries located in a county not defined as rural, which has multiple economic distress factors, may qualify for a reduction or waiver of match and technical assistance from the Rural Economic Development Initiative.

Communities not located in a designated rural county are eligible for a reduction or waiver of match based upon documentation submitted, verified and approved by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Is My Community Eligible?

If the answer is yes to all the questions below, your community may be eligible to request a "Reduction or Waiver of Financial Match Requirements" and assistance from the Rural Economic Development Initiative.

  1. Does your community have an employment base that is dominated by traditional agricultural or resource-based industries? To ensure your community meets these criteria, utilize the "On the Map" tool produced by the United States Census Bureau. On the left side of the screen under "Search," type in the name and state of your community (for example, Sweetgum, Florida) and select "Places (Cities, Census-Designated Place, etc.)" from the drop-down menu. Then select "Search." Select your community from the list of results. When a map appears in the right side of the screen, click on "Perform Analysis on Selection Area" and the "Analysis Settings" page will open. Select work/area profile/the most current year/all jobs click on "Go" then select "Detailed Report" under the "Report/Map Outputs" toolbar found on the left-side of the screen. To meet the first criteria, "Agriculture" or "Mining" must in the top four industries under "Jobs by North American Industry Classification System Industry Sector".
  2. Is the population of your community 25,000 or less?
  3. Is your community an unincorporated federal enterprise community or an incorporated rural city that is not located in a designated rural county?
  4. Does your community have at least three or more economic distress factors equal to or greater than similar designated rural communities?

Local Economic Distress Factors

  • low per capita income
  • low per capita taxable values
  • high unemployment
  • high underemployment
  • low weekly earned wages
  • low housing values
  • high percentages of the population receiving public assistance
  • high poverty levels

To qualify, applicants must submit a request and current documentation that shows the local employment base is focused on traditional agriculture or a resource base industry (forestry, mining, fishing, hunting, quarrying, oil and gas extraction); and current data showing the community has at least three or more economic distress factors at least 25 percent greater than the state average.

Upon verification, a letter of eligibility will be provided to qualified communities. The designation for a community that is not located in a "Rural County" is good for one year from the date on the letter of eligibility. A new request and updated documentation must be submitted on an annual basis on or before the expiration date to continue designation.

The following can assist with the most recent community labor statistics, percentage of students participating in the free lunch program, housing values, property tax values, census tracts, land use maps, etc.:

"On the Map" is a good tool to use for defining the local employment base; agriculture or resource-based industries must fall within the top three industries.

An equal opportunity employer/program.  Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.
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