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§ 226. Distressed and economically strong counties

(a) Designations.—
(1) In general.— Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this section, and annually thereafter, the Commission, in accordance with such criteria as the Commission may establish, shall—
(A) designate as “distressed counties” those counties in the region that are the most severely and persistently distressed; and
(B) designate 2 categories of economically strong counties, consisting of—
(i) “competitive counties”, which shall be those counties in the region that are approaching economic parity with the rest of the United States; and
(ii) “attainment counties”, which shall be those counties in the region that have attained or exceeded economic parity with the rest of the United States.
(2) Annual review of designations.— The Commission shall—
(A) conduct an annual review of each designation of a county under paragraph (1) to determine if the county still meets the criteria for the designation; and
(B) renew the designation for another 1-year period only if the county still meets the criteria.
(b) Distressed Counties.— In program and project development and implementation and in the allocation of appropriations made available to carry out this Act, the Commission shall give special consideration to the needs of those counties for which a distressed county designation is in effect under this section.
(c) Economically Strong Counties.—
(1) Competitive counties.— Except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4), in the case of a project that is carried out in a county for which a competitive county designation is in effect under this section, assistance under this Act shall be limited to not more than 30 percent of the project cost.
(2) Attainment counties.— Except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4), no funds may be provided under this Act for a project that is carried out in a county for which an attainment county designation is in effect under this section.
(3) Exceptions.— The requirements of paragraphs (1) and (2) shall not apply to—
(A) any project on the Appalachian development highway system authorized by section 201;
(B) any local development district administrative project assisted under section 302 (a)(1); or
(C) any multicounty project that is carried out in 2 or more counties designated under this section if—
(i) at least 1 of the participating counties is designated as a distressed county under this section; and
(ii) the project will be of substantial direct benefit to 1 or more distressed counties.
(4) Waiver.—
(A) In general.— The Commission may waive the requirements of paragraphs (1) and (2) for a project upon a showing by the recipient of assistance for the project of 1 or more of the following:
(i) The existence of a significant pocket of distress in the part of the county in which the project is carried out.
(ii) The existence of a significant potential benefit from the project in 1 or more areas of the region outside the designated county.
(B) Reports to congress.— The Commission shall submit to the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives an annual report describing each waiver granted under subparagraph (A) during the period covered by the report.
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