Thought Leadership

What You Need to Know About the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Funding and Opportunity for Modernization

President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA) as part of his plan to tackle some of our country’s economic challenges. The bill is designed is to help rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in underserved communities.

With infrastructure being a critical part of our everyday life, this bill creates a massive opportunity for updates in technology to improve project and operation processes. Still, many local leaders are trying to determine what it will mean for their community. What projects does the bill prioritize? How will your community receive funding? How can you best prepare?    

Phase One – Where will the initial investment begin?

The language and intent of the bill are clear – states will directly receive funding that will funnel down to localities to combat a myriad of infrastructure disparities. The federal government has released an updated fact sheet with information regarding the specifics of how each state will benefit from this new plan.

Formula Funding: Based on formula funding, there are current infrastructure projects that will receive priority funding; and will be among the initial projects that will begin production in 2022. These projects include:

  • Improving healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans
  • Building a network of electric vehicle chargers to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options
  • Helping connect every American to reliable high-speed internet
  • Preparing the nation’s infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, cyber attacks, and extreme weather events
  • Delivering clean drinking water to every American and eliminating the nation’s lead service lines and pipes
  • Improving the nation’s airports

Competitive Grants: It is expected that the backlogged and outstanding infrastructure projects will receive priority when the disbursement of funds begins. However, in addition to the formula funding, part of the bill includes competitive grants, allowing officials and federal agencies to dictate how funds are allocated. 

Timeline – When can you expect to see funding?

The Department of Transportation estimates that states could receive funding in the next 6 months. The bulk of the funding and initial investment will go to the Department of Transportation and will be awarded to states based on a formula or through a competitive grant process. The first projects to begin production will be for highway maintenance and repair. States can also expect to see quick formula funding for transit projects, bridges, airports, and Amtrak. 

There is currently no defined timeline for the release of competitive grants; these grant opportunities are expected to have the slowest roll-out time. New criteria for discretionary funding must be established – with an emphasis on ensuring that future projects align with Biden’s administration goals. 

Understanding Your Window of Opportunity

Connected Communities

A sizable portion of the bill is dedicated to transportation enhancements and developments – however, there is a great opportunity for broadband, IT, and cyber security development.

$65 billion of the infrastructure bill has been allocated toward broadband – enhancing Americans’ ability to connect to high-speed internet, both in cities and rural communities. Specifically, $42.5 billion is included in this bill for broadband deployments and digital equity.

Additionally, The Department of Transportation will be required to develop a tool and an office to assist public transportation agencies, owners and operators of highways, and manufacturers producing transportation-related products to protect against cyber security incidents.

Modernization

An increase in infrastructure projects will create a need for modern solutions for project management and tracking.  Departments and agencies are plagued by antiquated and inefficient processes – using paper or electronic forms with manual processes.

With what’s being coined as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, investing today in modernized technology and automated processes will be key in ensuring timely success of these upcoming projects when the funds are actually disbursed. 

Specific to states and localities, there will be an exponential increase in applying and issuing permits, plans, and inspections. Agencies will be involved with the tasks of tracking funding, hiring, and building reports. This also creates the need for systems that are user-friendly and allow for communication and collaboration while on the go.

Modernizing and digitizing processes will improve productivity and employee and customer satisfaction. The need for automated and updated technology is crucial, more than ever before. 

Start Preparing Today! 

Similar to the American Rescue Plan, there will be rolling updates over the next coming months, and everyone wants to know, how do I secure my share?

  1. Staying connected and up to date with the latest communications is a primary method of being prepared for the release of forthcoming funding. The Federal Register and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration provide helpful updates and timely information on the progress of the IIJA.
  2. As the federal government makes plans to disburse funds to states through formula funding, additional competitive grants will also be available as application processes are established. For your agency, it will be helpful to understand the priority projects and key issues of your state and locality. Aligning your goals with that of your territory strategically positions you to be a better candidate to receive funding. 
  3. Take advantage of CentralSquare’s Free Grant Assistance Program, which helps agencies find applicable grants and secure additional funding for budgets. This service includes access to an extensive grant listing database, 1:1 grant consulting, as well as grant application help. 

The reality is the bill is new and there will be continued updates over the next few months. Now is a crucial time to organize your efforts and identify your area of opportunity that the bill targets. The goals of the Infrastructure Bill are focused on specific priorities, yet there are still a considerable number of opportunities for local governments and agencies to take advantage of.

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