The COVID-19 pandemic has put incredible strain on individuals, organizations, and communities, and will have a significant impact on the health of the economy for an unknown period. Today, President Trump encouraged Congress to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure bill to boost the economy and speed the eventual recovery.
With funding coming, what can we learn from past stimulus?
Reflecting upon some of the lessons learned during the 2008 economic recession and the subsequent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) can be of great benefit right now. While the factors driving the economic impacts of the current COVID-19 Pandemic and the Great Recession are different, many parallels are clear.
Unemployment is growing at a record pace, financial markets are incredibly volatile, and an economic stimulus bill to provide immediate relief in the areas of small business loans; tax relief for individuals, families, and businesses; and financial support for families and healthcare/labor was recently passed by lawmakers. This reaction is eerily similar to what happened in 2008/2009, so it is possible that there will be a similar Stimulus package coming that will include funding for public infrastructure projects. This would be a unique opportunity to drive investment into our communities, create jobs, and tackle infrastructure challenges with exceptional grant funding and low-cost borrowing.
How can you prepare your municipality/utility for this opportunity?
There are several things you can do to take advantage of a new funding opportunity. We expect that some of the successful tactics that worked with ARRA in 2009 will work today. These include:
- “Shovel-Ready” projects will be favored! Projects where planning, engineering, and permitting had advanced and construction can begin within a very short time, are considered “Shovel-Ready”. ARRA specifically prioritized projects where construction could commence in less than a year.
- Aggressively pursue existing Funding Programs: ARRA funds were funneled through existing funding Programs like the State Revolving Funds, FEMA Hazard Mitigation, BUILD Grants (formerly known as TIGER Grants), and many more. Projects already earmarked and/or on priority lists received unprecedented grants and/or principal forgiveness. Having projects positioned for existing funding programs led to great results.
- Refresh your current Capital Improvement Plan (CIP): Review your CIP with a look towards the high impact projects that can be grouped together. For instance, combine a paving program with pipe replacement and downtown redevelopment while resolving a historic flooding issue. These types of multi-solution projects were very desirable during ARRA, as they had the greatest positive impact to a community.
- Highlight Economic Development Benefits: During ARRA, when a project could demonstrate economic benefit, it was favored. Did you know that there are clear and proven methods to quantify the economic impact for expanding and/or replacing water/sewer infrastructure within a community?
More takeaways from ARRA 2009
The Great Recession of 2008-2009 caused the economy to lose trillions, drove high unemployment, and systematically destroyed equity. ARRA introduced billions of dollars into federal programs, with more than $100 billion put aside for infrastructure projects and over $13 billion for water and wastewater facilities by way of grants, revolving funds and principal forgiveness. With ARRA, many projects that were a part of the SRF program were eligible to receive principal forgiveness and other projects were fully funded.
Water Infrastructure Funding in the ARRA
Clean Water SRF capitalization grants
Drinking Water SRF capitalization grants
Rural water & waste disposal grants & loans
Bureau of Reclamation/Dept. Of the Interior
Water & related sources
Corps/Dept. Of Defense
Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program
Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS/USDA)
Small Watershed Program
Intl. Boundary & Water Commission/Dept. of State
International Boundary & Water Commission
What can I do NOW?
We will continue to send critical funding information over the coming weeks and months, as details unfold. We will help you to continue to assess this situation and interpret guidelines so you can benefit from new funding.
Work to get your projects “shovel ready.” You may need to re-prioritize capital projects or move more quickly than planned. If you’re concerned about missing an opportunity, reach out to us. Our engineers, permitting experts, environmental compliance specialists, and operations experts can help you efficiently complete the final steps of your projects to get them ready for construction.
Woodard & Curran has a Strategic Funding Services Group, including dedicated Funding Specialists who stand ready to provide funding application and administration services. We specialize in securing state and federal funding for clients. Over the last five years, Woodard & Curran has applied for nearly $2 billion in grants and loans, and from this, approximately $1.5 billion dollars in grants/loans were successfully awarded to our clients.