MONTPELIER, Vt. — A new federal program designed to encourage development in areas along the U.S.-Canadian border in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine is accepting applications for the first round of grants.

The Northern Border Regional Commission is designed to spur development in 36 economically challenged counties along the northern borders of the four states.

Congress agreed last year to provide $1.5 million in funding for the commission. This year, the commission plans to devote $1.3 million of that to grants to municipalities, nonprofits and other groups for transportation, telecommunications and other purposes.