WINDSOR, ONT. -- Rural communities are getting almost $1 million in cost-share funding to diversify their economies, retain skilled workers and create jobs.

Details about the funding were released by Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in Leamington on Friday.

A portion of the funding will go towards the revitalization of downtown Leamington.

The money is being provided through a new targeted intake of the Rural Economic Development program (RED).

"This funding will focus on diversifying regional economies and improving the competitiveness of rural businesses across the province," said Minister Hardeman. "Due to the COVID-19 crisis many people are struggling, and this funding will support job creation and investment to help lift up individuals, families and businesses."

The intake is directed at not-for-profit organizations with a mandate towards regional economic development and eligible projects would be eligible for up to 70 per cent of total costs to a maximum of $75,000 in provincial funding.

Minister Hardeman also announced more than $3 million in funding cost-shared with applicants to be invested in 65 projects through a previous RED intake.

This funding will support economic development efforts such as:

Capital improvements to enhance an uptown arts and cultural hub to increase tourism;

Implementing new and accessible streetscaping to develop a more inviting downtown;

Waterfront development to expand and revitalize local trails.

"I am very pleased to see our government stepping up to the plate, now more than ever, to help rural Ontario," said Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls."Assisting in the revitalization of downtown Leamington and supporting not-for-profit organizations are key to helping the region on its road to economic recovery."

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald says they are thankful for the funding to help complete key infrastructure projects.

"The John Street Centennial Park and Shotton Parkette upgrades are just two projects in a series of initiatives we are undertaking to reinvent public spaces and attract renewed interest and investment into Leamington's uptown core," said MacDonald.

Applications will be accepted from Sept. 21 – Oct. 9, 2020