Distressed Cities and Persistent Poverty Technical Assistance

The Distressed Cities and Persistent Poverty Technical Assistance (DCTA) program is designed to improve fiscal health and build capacity of relatively small units of general local government (UGLGs or local governments) and their nonprofit partners in places experiencing persistent poverty and economic distress. “Local governments” include villages, towns, tribes, cities, counties, and other small municipalities. A community’s needs for technical assistance (TA) may be attributable to multiple factors including, but not limited to, changing market dynamics, economic decline, emigration, and/or natural disasters.

DCTA considers good fiscal health, strong financial performance, and effective financial management practices to be the foundation for local governments and nonprofits to successfully obtain funding, implement projects, and accomplish goals. These are viewed as the central components of the technical assistance (TA) offered through this program. Other possible areas of TA include governance and management, leadership development, data and research, building partnerships, community engagement, strategic planning, plan implementation, and program evaluation. The guidance provided by TA teams helps recipients build specific knowledge and skills to be more successful in meeting the needs of their communities.

What are the benefits of participating in the DCTA Program?

This program is designed to help small local governments and their nonprofit partners:

  • Improve Financial Management: Adopt effective, efficient, and sustainable (long-term) financial management practices that improve fiscal health
  • Improve Internal Processes: Based on the local government and nonprofit’s needs, improve internal processes, such as:
    • Developing financial policies and procedures
    • Gathering and analyzing data that is representative of the community
    • Implementing or tracking progress of recently adopted planning documents
    • Building cross-sector partnerships
    • Establishing equitable community engagement practices
  • Build Program Capacity: Based on the local government’s interests, build capacity in program areas such as:
    • Creating opportunities for economic revitalization and growth
    • Planning for economic stabilization and recovery post disaster (including prolonged disasters and public health crises)
    • Strategizing around housing and community development projects, including identifying funding
    • Leveraging federal development programs such as opportunity zones

Key Phases of the DCTA Engagement

A flow chart of four circles each encompassing one of the four phases of the DCTA engagement. First circle contains Intake. Second circle contains Needs Assessment. Third circle contains Direct TA. Fourth Circle contains Close Out. There are bullets under each cirlce describing each phase.

Capacity Needs Assessment

Once the intake process has concluded, and HUD confirms eligibility and program capacity, HUD will assign a TA provider to engage with the local government and conduct a capacity needs assessment (CNA). Importantly, this not a community needs assessment, this assessment focuses on the local government’s financial management practices, level of community engagement, local market activity, housing and economic stability, and capacity relevant to the priorities identified by the local government during the intake process.

The CNA helps the local government and the TA team identify strengths and needs within current fiscal management, funding acquisition, and community development activities. Key areas of capacity assessment, beyond financial management and fiscal health, include economic development, affordable housing, community engagement, partnership development, and disaster recovery as needed.  

Depending on the needs of the local government and its community partners, the TA team may conduct an abbreviated CNA to focus on priorities, or a comprehensive CNA to fully assess all aspects of the UGLG’s management and operations. This assessment provides guidance for the TA team to:

  • Better understand and confirm the needs that were identified in the DCTA request, as well as the recipient’s vision and priorities for their community and barriers to achieving them,
  • Create a profile of the community, its economic and demographic characteristics, and the local governmental structure and operations,
  • Inform the development of a TA work plan to address the recipient’s challenges and support the achievement of their priorities and vision.

The CNA process includes desk reviews of existing documents, policies, and financial statements, as well as interviews with municipal staff and community partners. The CNA report identifies priority needs for technical assistance and informs the development of a direct TA work plan.

Information gathered through the assessment is used solely for the purpose of assessing capacity and designing subsequent direct TA. The information will not be used by HUD or any other agency for program monitoring or compliance.

Direct Technical Assistance

Based on the results of the CNA, DCTA provides direct technical assistance from field experts to address the needs identified during the CNA process. These activities may involve the provision of training and assistance in using tools, templates, and best practices for maximizing financial capacity and funds administration. TA teams often help the local government with community partnership development, downtown development, and affordable housing plans. Other possible areas of TA under the DCTA program include governance and management, leadership development, data usage and research, partnership building, community engagement, strategic planning, plan implementation, and program evaluation.

Direct TA helps connect the local government with federal funding opportunities, regional and state initiatives, and local nonprofits focused on the priorities identified through the CNA. Direct TA is designed to build capacity and long-term sustainability for growth and development. Most DCTA recipients work on building capacity in the areas listed above by identifying a priority challenge or opportunity on which they would like to make progress. Tailored capacity building support is provided to pursue opportunities and/or address challenges. The direct TA will conclude with a closeout memo that captures the work to date, the resources developed to assist the UGLG, and the tools and templates they can use to facilitate implementation of TA recommendations.

On-Call TA

Good News! Closeout does not mean the end of TA from the DCTA Program! UGLGs have the option to request up to 16 hours of additional TA for help with specific needs related to the direct TA focus areas. This ‘On-Call TA’ is available for up to one year after the closeout of direct TA. On-call TA offers UGLGs an opportunity to receive assistance from subject area experts as needed to keep initiatives moving and continue capacity development.

On-call TA is designed to provide ongoing support for UGLGs to ensure that gains made during direct TA are not lost and that UGLGs and their non-profit partners know that support is available if dilemmas arise. With this additional support just an email away, TA recipients can feel confident in their pursuit of the objectives and goals established during the TA process. DCTA recipients can request on-call TA by reaching out to the lead provider of their direct TA.

Learn More

Learn more about the DCTA program, including program basics, eligibility, process examples, and current recipients. If you have any questions, please contact distressedcities@hud.gov.

Visit the DCTA Program page on HUD.gov

Request TA

If your community is eligible and might benefit from the DCTA program, please submit a request for TA.

Request TA

Engagement Spotlight

Each quarter, a new Engagement Spotlight will showcase some of the exciting achievements by local governments and nonprofits participating in the DCTA program. In this space, we uplift and share positive outcomes in communities actively engaging with the DCTA program!

Current Spotlight: Yabucoa, PR

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico

View All Spotlights

Resources, Tools, Webinars, and Guidance

In addition to direct support from field experts, the DCTA program provides a wealth of resources compiled in the DCTA Resources Library which is updated bi-weekly.

  • Stay up to date on key information to help guide local strategies and decisions.
  • Access the latest tools, guidance, studies, reports, training, funding opportunities, and more.
  • Explore topics such as best practices for navigating federal funding streams, improving community engagement, developing affordable housing initiatives, recovering from natural disasters and public health emergencies, and facilitating economic development in downtowns and business corridors.

View the DCTA Resource Library

NewFinancial Management Toolkit for Federal Funding

Sound financial management is foundational to healthy and effective organizations. The DCTA program prioritizes addressing financial management and fiscal planning for UGLGs that participate in the program. To help UGLGs achieve financial management goals, a Financial Management Toolkit (FMT) was developed and is provided to UGLGs as part of the TA. This FMT addresses common financial management topics DCTA recipient UGLGs may encounter in the course of updating and/or creating their financial management policies.