WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – The U.S. Department of Commerce is now accepting applications for a grant program to help communities create jobs and better economies.

The new pilot program aims at investing hundreds of millions of dollars in communities with distressed economies and job markets.

“There’s a lot of communities that need to transition but they need investment to transition,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

Raimondo says the grants will create opportunities in people’s hometowns.

“Maybe a coal community or maybe a rural community where they’re just stuck, and they need an investment,” Raimondo said. “We have $200 million in total.  We will be selecting somewhere between four and eight communities, so each community will receive tens of millions of dollars.”

Secretary Raimondo says the flexible funds can be used for different types of programs like job training or opening up new office buildings.

“The recompete pilot program is really exciting because this is meant to be a long-term economic development investment,” said Stephanie Martinez Ruckman with the National League of Cities.

Martinez-Ruckman added that the grants should make a significant difference, in part, because the money will be distributed over 10 years “to create long-term quality jobs and increasing prime age employment rates across the country.”

Communities should apply alongside other stakeholders, like companies or universities.

If the pilot is successful, the program could grow by another $800 million.