The enactment of the United States Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act marks a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure. But what does the bill actually include? And more importantly, how can utilities go about accessing this funding? Here’s what you need to know.
There is over $65 billion available for water infrastructure projects alone. The bill will provide communities with an unprecedented opportunity not only to repair aging water infrastructure, but to invest in modernizing systems to protect against climate impacts, streamline operations, and reduce operating costs. The water infrastructure funding prioritizes funding for the identification and treatment of emerging contaminants, with a particular focus on PFAS; lead service line replacement; small and disadvantaged communities; and western water supply issues.
There is approximately $65 billion available for power and electric grid projects. The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will administer $16.2 billion through 28 different programs, including $3 billion for the Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant program which has been supporting electric utilities since 2009.
One of the main goals is to support rural communities and utilities. Much of the state-level funding has been to support rural operations because their population has been steadily decreasing. The bill makes an $11 billion investment in federal resources to advance the deployment of infrastructure in Tribal communities, including $4.3 billion for water infrastructure alone.
The funding horizon is long, and funding is primarily grants – not loans. The funding horizon is five years, and money can be spent after the funding period. This is the primary difference between this bill and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. There is a greater focus on projects that are shovel-worthy (over the long-term) versus shovel-ready in the short term.
There is funding available to support vetting and deploying these resources.
- $21 million was recently initiated by the EPA to provide technical training and support to rural water utilities, as part of the goal of digitalization and system optimization.
- $3.7 million was provided by the EPA to attract new persons to the water industry, to help with the dwindling workforce. The high level of retirements, particularly during the pandemic has made the labor shortages more acute.
- There is technical assistance funding. We will provide more information on these resources once available.
This bill reflects the broad, bipartisan support for federal spending on infrastructure with the potential to have a significant positive impact on our communities. As more is learned of state-specific plans and programs, we look forward to providing future updates.