Infrastructure Bills Provide Special Considerations for Smaller Communities

With the passing of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, state and local governments will soon have the resources necessary to address longstanding infrastructure needs that traditionally have only been able to be funded on an annual basis. Instead, this bill allows cities and counties more breathing room to fully prioritize major projects and implement solutions over a five-year period to adequately meet the demands of their constituents.

The bill has set aside $284 billion for transportation, $55 billion for water, $65 billion for broadband, $73 billion for energy and power, $21 billion for environmental remediation, $8.3 billion for western water infrastructure (to address drought conditions), and $46 billion for resiliency purposes.

However, as American City & County reports, “small-town governments might not have the in-house expertise necessary to make spending decisions about novel initiatives like emerging green energy technologies, regional transportation or resiliency infrastructure to combat evolving weather patterns.” To ease this pressure on smaller communities, the bill encourages “cross-country collaboration” with regional planning organizations. There are also a variety of advocacy groups willing to point these communities in the right direction, such as the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), the National League of Cities (NLC), the National Association of Counties (NACo), the US Conference of Mayors, and the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).

Smaller communities also may be able to take advantage of additional funding with the State, Local Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act. If passed, this bill would allow additional investment “in infrastructure-related and economic development activities” with money already allotted under ARPA, provided those investments are $10 million or less.

Perhaps the best news is that the US Department of Transportation is slated to start distributing funds in as little as six months. Still, it’s important to bear in mind that a quick rollout doesn’t necessarily translate into overnight progress. After decades of neglect, it will take some time to prioritize which projects should be tackled first before even getting to work. Nevertheless, it’s good to see that the ball is already rolling.

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