On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a massive spending bill into law called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Just like it sounds, this legislation will provide funding to improve the hard infrastructure of the United States, which will, in turn, provide more jobs for Americans.
With infrastructure being an essential and critical part of our everyday lives, this bill creates a huge opportunity to improve and update technology, making operation and project processes manageable. So what does it mean for communities who need to apply for the IIJA?
What projects should these local leaders prioritize? How can you best prepare? Continue reading below to learn more about IIJA and who you can reach out to for more information.
What Is the IIJA?
The IIJA, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was a bill passed by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021. The IIJA’s primary goal is to rebuild America’s bridges, rails, and roads, expand access to clean water, invest in underserved communities, tackle the climate crisis, and ensure that every American has access to high-speed internet.
With a total cost of 1.2 trillion dollars, the bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will go to help the communities that need it most. The potential for this bill is very exciting, but communities need to be proactive and prepared to ensure that their residents benefit from this bill. Applying for the IIJA will take a lot of data analytics and prioritization to ensure that the right projects receive the attention they need.
1. Prioritize Your Community’s Capital Needs
When you get ready to apply for the IIJA, the first step is to develop a project pipeline. You can do this by taking time to think about previous projects your community needed but could not afford at the time.
When reviewing what your community needs most, be sure to create a strategy that aligns with the entire community’s needs. This once-in-a-generation funding bill has the potential to cover backlogged projects.
2. Review the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook
The government created a 465 page Infrastructure Law Guidebook that outlines information about how much funding each category receives. This guidebook also outlines who can receive it and when the expected milestones are to be. You can use this guidebook to identify the right funding streams to target.
3. Review Your Community’s Transportation Improvement Plan
You will want to ensure that your Metropolitan Planning Organization’s transportation improvement plan includes your transit and railway projects. It would be best if you also looked at any highway, bridge, or other road projects that previously could not receive funding.
4. Start Mapping EV Sites
Included in this massive spending bill is a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program that boasts a $5 billion investment. This funding aims to create an extensive network of over 500,000 ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations. No one knows your community as you do, so you should map out the best areas to put the electric vehicle and alternative fuel charging stations.
5. Inventory and Map Lead Pipes before you Apply for the IIJA
Did you know that more than ten million American households don’t have access to clean drinkable water? Most service pipes in the United States that connect water to Americans contain lead, leading to lead poisoning and other health issues.
Communities of color and low-income communities are more at risk of consuming lead because of the poor infrastructure in these areas. To make sure that you prioritize and service your struggling communities, inventory and map the lead pipes in your city. Having this information on hand will make the application process much smoother.
6. Partner With Your State’s Broadband Agency
As part of the IIJA bill, $65 billion is allocated to improving the broadband networks in under and unserved areas. More and more Americans work from home or attend school virtually.
To ensure that everyone has an adequate internet connection, this bill promises to reach those communities. To ensure that you meet this promise, connect with your state’s broadband agency to map and inventory areas that need an internet connection the most.
7. Establish Relationships With Regional Offices
Applying for the IIJA can be smooth if you create relationships with regional offices with connections to critical federal agencies. They can provide you with assistance in directing resources and providing technical services.
IIJA Application Advice
Per the IIJA bill, states will directly receive funding that will help combat infrastructure disparities. There is an updated facts sheet here with information on how each state will benefit from the IIJA.
There are specific infrastructure projects that will receive priority funding. For example, improving sustainable and healthy transportation options for Americans is one of the top priorities.
Other projects set to start in 2022:
- EV charger network expansion
- Connecting every American to reliable high-speed internet
- Removal of lead service lines and pipes
- Improving airports
- Preparing the nation’s infrastructure for the impacts of extreme weather events
It is expected that most outstanding and backlogged infrastructure projects will have priority when funds become released. In addition to formula funding, there will be competitive grants. These grants will allow federal agencies and officials to dictate how to allocate these funds.
IIJA Application Tips and Funding
Many people are wondering when to expect funding and the answer to that question depends. The Department of Transportation, for example, is expected to receive the financing they need within the next couple of months.
The bulk of the initial investment and funding will go to the Department of Transportation. It will then be awarded to the states based on their formula funding needs or through the competitive grant process.
The first projects to begin production will be highway repair and maintenance. States should see quick formula funding for airports, transit, Amtrak, and bridge repairs.
Timeline for Competitive Grants when you Apply for the IIJA
At current, there are no definite timelines for these grants. They are expected to have a slower roll-out time compared to the other projects that take precedence. Even though the timeline is not definite, there are several things you can do to prepare.
Opportunity for Broadband and Cybersecurity Development
As mentioned earlier, $65 billion of the bill is allocated towards enhancing connections to high-speed, reliable internet. This presents an excellent opportunity for IT, broadband, and cyber security. The Department of Transportation will need to develop an office and a tool to assist public transportation agencies against cyber security incidents.
Applying for the IIJA
Before you apply for the IIJA, you will want to create a plan to ensure that your community receives the maximum benefit from this bill. Before your district can decide how to use the money, you should take the time to prioritize your community’s most significant needs.
Techniques used to rank infrastructure projects:
- Take inventory of your infrastructure projects
- Measure their conditions
It is crucial to identify how critical each project is and how each project can affect the community if it fails. With this significant investment providing the opportunity to uplift and improve many people’s lives in your community, it is also crucial to speak about the advancement of technology.
Potential Community Challenges
Previous infrastructure projects may have been less prioritized because of their cost. Those projects may have been solar sidewalk lights, energy recovery from wastewater biosolids, or smart meter technologies.
Those types of projects are the kind of investments that the IIJA could fund. Not every community has the same level of data availability and asset management, so it could pose to be a challenge when tackling infrastructure prioritization and planning.
With the mass spending available through the IIJA for the next five to ten years, now is an excellent time to ensure that improvement plans are as calculated and transparent as possible with the data your community already has. The overall goal for your infrastructure plan should be to establish reliable and sustainable services that are proactive, not to react to failing assets that continue to be a pain point for your community members.
Prepare Your Community for Change
Applying for the IIJA should not be a complicated process, especially when there are resources out there to help prioritize your community’s needs. Each community should participate in forums to ensure that state and federal level decision-makers are aware of funding and investment opportunities.
A community may have a well-informed plan but cannot expect to receive those funds needed unless they put the effort in to reach out to those in position to award grants or allocate funds. ACG Advocacy has the expertise required to support clients in developing communication strategies to help well-informed plans turn into funded investments. Contact us now to learn more about the IIJA and how we can help build the right plan for your community’s needs.