February 14, 2022
Financing of public works
On November 15, 2021, the bipartisan infrastructure bill known as Building a Better America was signed into law. This bill invests more than $400 billion over five years to repair roads and bridges and support major transportation projects.
Building a Better America provides several different funding mechanisms. A portion will be provided to states while other funding is available through a competitive grant process. The White House has released a 465-page guide that contains information on the thirteen funding areas with information on where and how to apply for the various programs. If necessary, the White House will release subsequent versions of the guide with all updated details and timelines.
Funding for Building a Better America has been distributed among the following program areas:
- Roads, bridges and major projects
- Passenger and freight rail transport
- Public transport
- Federal Aviation Administration airports and facilities
- Ports and waterways
- Electric vehicles, buses and ferries
- Climate, energy and environment
- Clean energy and electricity
- The water
- Environmental remediation
- Other programs
- Programs of the regional commissions
- Department of Commerce, Agriculture and Energy Programs
- Departments of Health and Human Services and Interior Programs
- Department of Transportation Programs
- Environmental Protection Agency programs
- Solid waste management and recycling
The White House also released a fact sheet with 25 competitive grant opportunities for local governments. Some of these competitive grants are already open and have application deadlines. Many more will open in the first quarter of 2022, while more will open later in 2022. It is imperative that local governments wishing to apply start planning now. If your agency has not already registered with Grants.gov (the federal grant application portal), note that registration takes two to four weeks and is the first step in the process.
This funding program is currently applications open and accepted: Grants for the Sustainable and Equitable Reconstruction of American Infrastructure (RAISE). RAISE provides $7.5 billion for transportation infrastructure projects, including road, rail, transit, and other surface transportation of local and/or regional significance. Transport projects will be selected based on safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, competitiveness and economic opportunity, state of good repair, partnerships and innovation. Local governments interested in funding should consult the funding opportunity notice for information on how to apply. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on April 15, 2022.
Grant opportunities: first quarter of 2022
These grant programs are not currently open, but are planned to be in the first quarter of this year (i.e. until March 2022).
Port Infrastructure Development Grants include $2 billion in grants to fund the modernization and expansion of U.S. ports to eliminate supply chain bottlenecks, ensure competitiveness, resilience and long-term sustainability while reducing impacts on the environment and nearby communities.
Bus and Bus Facility Grants include $2 billion in grants to replace, rehabilitate, purchase or lease buses and bus-related equipment and to rehabilitate, purchase, construct or lease bus-related facilities – as well as capital funding for broadcast bus projects.
National Infrastructure Project Assistance (also known as “megaprojects” or MEGA) provides $5 billion in grants for multimodal, multijurisdictional projects of regional or national significance. Communities wishing to complete large, critical projects that would otherwise be unachievable without outside assistance are eligible to apply for funding. The information is not currently available on the Department of Transportation (DOT) website, but is expected to be released sometime this month.
The Rural Surface Transportation Grant program provides $2 billion in grants to improve and expand surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas, increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and goods, and generate economic growth regional. As with the MEGA funding program, the DOT website will post upcoming details as they become available.
Grant Opportunities: Spring 2022 and Beyond
These grant programs are should open after the first quarter of this year (i.e. after March 2022).
Safe Streets and Roads for All includes $5 billion in grants for local and tribal governments exclusively to support their efforts to advance “vision zero” plans and other comprehensive street improvements to reduce crashes and fatalities , especially for cyclists and pedestrians. Keep an eye on the DOT website for details to come.
The ReConnect Loans and Grants Program offers $2 billion in loans and grants for projects that provide broadband in rural areas. This is an existing program made available by the Department of Agriculture. The current application window ends February 22, 2022, but the next grant application window opens in the third quarter of 2022.
The Middle Mile Grant Program includes $1 billion in grants through the U.S. Department of Commerce to build, improve, or acquire Middle Mile broadband infrastructure. Applications are expected to open in the second quarter of 2022 and information will be available on the department’s website.
The State and Local Cybersecurity Grants Program provides $1 billion in grants to address cybersecurity risks and threats to information systems that state and local governments own or operate. Applications will likely open in the third quarter of 2022. As with the Middle Mile Grant Program, information about this grant opportunity will be released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
How local governments can prepare
The White House has encouraged local governments to begin planning the bid process in their departments, as well as coordinate bid efforts with their metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).
As part of this planning, a local government should:
- Prioritize your community’s capital needs and develop a pipeline of projects by taking the time to think about projects previously considered impossible due to a lack of funding or regional coordination. This is a once-in-a-generation funding opportunity that will require bold and inclusive thinking.
- Use the next guide to bipartisan infrastructure law to identify federal funding sources to target.
- Make sure that all transit, rail, road, highway and bridge projects are part of your DFO’s transportation improvement plan.
- Begin mapping sites for electric vehicle charging stations and alternative fuel sites.
- Make an inventory and map of lead pipes in your jurisdiction. Read the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan for additional federal resources for this effort.
- Work with your state’s broadband agency to ensure that the needs in your jurisdiction or region are mapped and inventoried appropriately.
- Build relationships with regional offices of key federal agencies that can help direct you to resources and provide technical assistance.
Additionally, the White House will be offering a series of Infrastructure Schools webinars over the coming weeks to give local governments an in-depth look at the funding opportunities available for the various areas of the infrastructure program. Local governments should plan to register for the appropriate webinars to take full advantage of these unique funding opportunities. Registration is currently open for webinars in the following program areas:
Registration for other webinars will open soon. For more information on grant opportunities and to sign up for updates, visit Building a Better America.
MRSC is a private, nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible Washington State government agencies can use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.