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Preparing for Anticipated CARES Act Phase 4 Infrastructure Stimulus Funding

Over the past several months the U.S. Congress and White House have passed several Coronavirus Relief Act (CARES) stimulus funding bills to address the financial hardships faced by individuals, businesses, and institutions as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. While these bills addressed serious short-term needs, Congress and the White House have also been discussing the need to provide infrastructure funding under a fourth CARES Act bill to stimulate long-term economic recovery and support job creation.

Currently, there is debate in Washington on what to include in the phase four response package, whether it is needed, and the timing of when funds should be made available. While this debate continues with lawmakers, it provides time for communities to be prepared if and when the infrastructure funding is announced. The recent rapid depletion of funds from the CARES Act phase three small business funding illustrates the need to be prepared.

While there is debate on what to include in the infrastructure funding, the potential funding categories that both sides of Congress currently support are:

  • Clean drinking water and wastewater programs
  • Highways, including improvements to roads and bridges
  • Broadband expansion in rural, suburban, and urban areas
  • Community health centers
  • Energy infrastructure

Other areas that may be considered include brownfield funding and public safety funding.

Our grant writers will draw on ample experience helping clients with past stimulus funding programs, including the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). LaBella assisted clients with identifying potential competitive projects, preparing grant applications, and administering the funded projects.

The most important lesson learned from the 2009 ARRA funding program that may be relevant for anticipated CARES Act infrastructure funding is that “shovel-ready” projects were given preference so the job creation and economic impacts would be felt sooner. “Shovel-ready” refers to projects that are designed, have permits/approvals, and just need funding to proceed.

ARRA funding fell into these “shovel-ready” categories:

  • Eligible projects not funded through previous grant programs. If a project was submitted for grant funding but not funded (via state or federal funding), those projects were revived as they had design and engineering, environmental reviews, income surveys, and other supporting documentation already done.
  • Projects that had design plans, environmental reviews, and other permits completed.
  • Maintenance projects (e.g., road repaving) that eliminated many of the environmental review requirements.

ARRA funding was administered through state agencies primarily but also federal agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture.

Now is the time for municipalities and other organizations to identify “shovel-ready” projects for when funding is available. Similarly, if projects were placed on hold prior to plans or environmental reviews being completed, this may be a good time to complete those tasks. LaBella’s multi-disciplinary team can assist clients with identifying “shovel-ready” projects and complete design and environmental requirements.

LaBella will continue to monitor these programs and provide updates as the programs become more defined. Please feel free to contact us at any time for a preliminary discussion on how we can assist you with potential stimulus projects.