From homeowners to business owners, urban entrepreneurs to rural residents, federal stimulus dollars are set to flow through Tallahassee to fund critical projects statewide. In what has been called a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity, those seeking to tap these dollars must act quickly.
A previous Becker article reviewed the billions of federal and Florida dollars that will fund state and local transportation and infrastructure projects. The billions in competitive funding available to cities, towns and municipalities across dozens of new and existing programs are intended to drive equitable economic prosperity by addressing infrastructure, transportation, climate change and resilience needs, and critical workforce goals.
Florida’s small businesses, universities, families and others stand to gain as well. Federal passthrough funding and money directly from the state will provide potentially billions of dollars for housing assistance, small businesses and economic development, child welfare programs, displaced communities, the state’s universities, including its historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other critical needs.
Already available are $600 million in homeowner assistance programs and another $400 million from the Florida Office Economic Opportunity and Small Business Opportunity. HBCU Florida Memorial University recently announced funding for a Center for Resiliency and soon will co-host a resiliency summit.
Among the programs are:
- Reconnecting Communities. The first-ever $1 billion Department of Transportation program will reconnect most often disadvantaged communities divided by highways and other transportation infrastructure. It will provide dedicated funding for planning, design, demolition and reconstruction of street grids, parks or other infrastructure. The “Healthy Streets” program will steer another $500 million to eligible majority-minority counties for new pavement and tree cover.
- Brownfields Remediation Program. This existing EPA program will provide $1.2 billion in grants and technical assistance to assess and safely clean up contaminated properties and offer job training programs. Communities are currently able to request funding for Targeted Brownfields Assessments through their regional EPA office.
- Lead, drinking water and hazardous substances. More than $50 billion in new and existing loans, grants and other funding will address issues critical to neighborhoods, rural areas and other markets impacted by generations of contamination. It includes the EPA’s drinking and clean water revolving loan funds; capitalization grants to remove lead water lines in neighborhoods and schools; PFAS and emerging contaminants in drinking and ground water; the Hazardous Substance Superfund; and recurring funds to implement water system improvements, with particular priority for underserved communities.
- Building resilient infrastructure and communities. Marginalized communities historically have been left on the sidelines for broader infrastructure improvements. New Department of Justice funding is steering some 40% of new funding to communities otherwise forgotten when climate change and resiliency are addressed. Additionally, this existing FEMA program will distribute $1 billion for communities’ hazard mitigation projects to reduce the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards.
The federal funding also will underwrite the creation of opportunity zones in marginalized communities, which will be essential to their future prosperity. As formerly blighted, urban communities are gentrified into popular residential and commercial destinations, cities like Liberty City and others are eager for funding to improve their quality of living.
As the Florida Legislature wraps up its annual session, much of this funding is not related to bills awaiting the governor’s signature. With a fresh, “color blind” spirit, infrastructure dollars are filtering down to small businesses and startups, HBCUs and other organizations that now are primed to become the new partners in prosperity that the federal, state and local governments are looking for.
The rolling application process means some RFPs and official guidance already have been released; some will be in the coming months. County or municipal leaders, business owners, university administrators and others should be assembling their teams of planners and government relations attorneys. Engage professionals who may have better insights on guidance release and whose connections with key government agencies could help secure funding for critical projects.
The key message is to prepare now. The municipality, university or small business that secures this “once-in-a-generation” money could be yours.
Yolanda Cash Jackson is a government law attorney well versed in state government funding and appropriations. Her working relationships with the state’s leading elected officials and policymakers, along with her civic, charitable and professional leadership, have earned Jackson a place among Florida’s 500 Most Influential Business Leaders. She was elected to Becker’s Management Committee in 2010.