More than 120 communities across the Highlands and Islands are among the first to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £350 million support package to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise is overseeing distribution of the region’s £40 million share of the Supporting Communities Fund.
It includes an initial £10 million investment that will be shared-out to community organisations already playing an active role in providing vital local services.
A further allocation of £10 million has been approved to support the second phase of the fund.
HIE has already approved 129 grants worth £2.68 million for community organisations located from Argyll to Shetland, and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray.
Each organisation will lead a targeted approach to helping those most in need, working alongside other third sector organisations, charities, volunteers, local authorities and statutory bodies.
More than 250 rural and urban communities across Scotland are to receive funding in the coming weeks.
Director of communities and place with HIE, Douglas Cowan, said: “There is already an incredible support network of community organisations and development trusts across the Highlands and Islands, involving thousands of volunteers and key workers.
“Distributing funding through these anchor organisations gives local people the power to make the choices that are right for their communities and ensures the support goes to help those who need it the most.”
Communities and local government cabinet secretary, Aileen Campbell, said the funding for the Highlands and Islands would make an important difference to the community fightback against the ongoing pandemic.
“People living in rural communities across the Highlands and Islands face significant challenges in accessing basic needs such as health and social care services, food and fuel,” Mrs Campbell said.
“That’s why the incredible community response to COVID-19 in the past weeks has been vital, and it has already made such a huge difference to so many people.
“This funding will be a valuable lifeline to continue the range of innovative support available for people in our communities, and we are working fast to get that support to where it is needed most.”