In all my years working with public agencies to secure federal funding, both from my role on Capitol Hill as a Senate staffer and now as a consultant to cities and counties, never have Congress and the White House made such an extraordinary commitment to investment in public infrastructure and local government services.
This unprecedented funding through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act is serving as a way for the federal government first to make state and local governments whole and then also allow them to do a whole lot more, stimulating the national economy through public spending on the bold, ambitious initiatives that cities and counties may have long had on their wish lists. Throughout the country, I see cities, ports, transit agencies, and other public entities committing these funds to smart initiatives, including major upgrades to IT infrastructure to allow them to leverage data effectively, bold public safety initiatives, ambitious transportation infrastructure, and improvements to public spaces.
As Congress works to make additional investments through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we’ll see some new funding streams that may be accessed through competitive awards rather than lump sum formula awards to communities. I anticipate grants for broadband, electric vehicle infrastructure and intelligent energy solutions, and road and water infrastructure, including opportunities to make traditional infrastructure more innovative and effective. As you begin to prepare to seek these new funds, I recommend you prepare to do the following:
- Shape your project scope and use case so that it aligns seamlessly with federal funding streams.
- Show a local commitment to the project. Even though most of these funds require no local match, think about how you can demonstrate that you’re “all in” through related local investments, staff time, etc.
- Gain the support of local government and non-government partners and secure their endorsements through MOUs and letters of support.
- When applicable, compile factual data to support the request.
- Demonstrate a history of solid stewardship of grant funding. I find that when done well, federal funding begets future federal funding, so make sure that your past awards are fully executed and all reporting is up to date.
- Leverage DC-based elected officials to advance the funding application. Your members of Congress and Senators are eager to voice their support for your application — be sure to brief them on your efforts.
My passion is making sure that local public agencies work effectively with their federal agencies and that you’re getting your fair share of federal dollars. There is a great deal of funding available to turn your valuable data into solutions that improve your community, and the federal government stands ready to be your partner.
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