American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funding Highlights
From new, red firehouses to old, red-listed bridges, funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is on its way to dozens of New Hampshire towns and cities to assist in designing, repairing, replacing, remodeling, modernizing, hiring, retaining, cleaning up and building out municipal infrastructure, personnel, programs and departments.
The ARRA will send to New Hampshire $610 million in federal formula funding designed to create jobs, allow infrastructure and public works projects to be completed more quickly, provide middle-class tax relief, help the State cope with budget shortfalls and stimulate long-term economic growth.
As of this writing, $113 million has already been awarded to projects overseen by the New Hampshire departments of Transportation, Environmental Services, Administrative Services and the Office of Energy and Planning (OEP). Clearly, there is still plenty of anticipated money yet to make its way out to the state’s municipalities. Although many of the ARRA-funded programs’ application filing dates have already passed, it’s not too late to act on several key ARRA funding opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program has received $3.2 billion in ARRA money. Based on the hundreds of entries in the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s (NHMA) database of municipal infrastructure projects, there are many local energy efficiency projects that could qualify for EECBG funds.
The stated purpose of the program is to assist in implementing strategies to:
•reduce fossil fuel emissions created as a result of activities within municipalities in a manner that: (a) is environmentally sustainable; and (b) maximizes benefits for local and regional communities;
•reduce the total energy use of municipalities; and
•improve energy efficiency in: (a) the transportation sector; (b) the building sector; and (c) other appropriate sectors.
One portion of EECBG funding goes to a state’s 10 most populated municipalities, with the following allocations to New Hampshire’s top 10:
This funding represents about two-thirds of the total available; the balance—which equals $9.6 million—flows directly to states, and to the OEP here in New Hampshire. The OEP is required to pass through 60 percent to municipalities that were not eligible for the top 10 portion. These same ineligible municipalities also qualify for a $400 million portion of the EECBG package, awarded through competitive applications, with guidance forthcoming from DOE.
While the application deadline for EECBG monies has already passed for the state’s top 10 municipalities, the non-top 10 funding opportunities are still wide open to New Hampshire’s other 224 cities and towns. Although OEP has yet to develop the application process, they are advising municipalities interested in the program to think ahead to what types of projects might be best suited for EECBG funding.
There is much more information available on OEP’s website regarding ideas for municipal projects, ARRA measurement and reporting requirements, and contact details of those who can be of further assistance. Visit http://www.nh.gov/oep/recovery/index.htm.
Also in the ARRA energy efficiency category is the DOE Weatherization program. Since 1974, through the OEP, New Hampshire’s six Community Action Programs (CAPs) have weatherized low-income homes with funding from DOE.
Under ARRA, weatherization funding for New Hampshire increases from the usual $3 million to $23 million, allowing for 3,500 more homes to be weatherized than usual, and creating upwards of 200 new jobs across the state. The average money allowed per dwelling grows from $2,500 to $6,500, and homeowner eligibility is raised from 150 percent to 200 percent of federal poverty levels. Homeowners can find more information online at http://www.nh.gov/oep/recovery/weatherization.htm.
Following the Funding
If you’ve been following ARRA-related news over the last few months, or read NHMA’s Legislative Bulletin with any regularity, you’ll know that many types of municipal projects have already been funded, while others are awaiting news of ARRA grants.
One of the earliest programs to announce final funding decisions came from New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation, which passed along $29 million of 100 percent grant money to 35 municipalities’ road, bridge and transportation enhancement projects.
Other early award decisions were made by New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services, which named recipients of $39.5 million in Clean Water and $19.5 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans.
Many cities and towns around the state may soon benefit from the revitalization of the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS program, which will fund for three years newly hired police officers, or fund retained positions in danger of being eliminated due to budget cuts. The only municipal string, which may look more like a rope in these tenuous financial times, is the requirement that in year four, benefiting municipalities must continue to fund the position(s) on their own, or risk having to return all ARRA funds.
These programs represent the leading edge of ARRA monies, whose positive financial impacts will be seen and felt throughout the state for months and years to come.
The New Hampshire Local Government Center website features an ARRA resource page with documents, data and links to information on the Economic Stimulus package and its many component pieces and funds of interest to municipalities. Visit http://www.nhlgc.org/LGCWebSite/Advocacy/economic_stimulus.asp.
Chris Porter is a staff researcher with the New Hampshire Municipal Association.
Editor’s Note: On Saturday, June 20, the OEP unveiled the EECBG funding proposal submitted to the DOE. Visit the OEP website, www.nh.gov/oep, and select the NH Recovery page to learn more.