Wherever your funding comes from, the financial aspect of a project is one of the most critical factors in deciding whether it ultimately moves forward or gets shelved. Moving money into infrastructure projects offers a way for local governments to sustain their economies—these projects provide a source of employment and a tangible means of improving the quality of life for residents.
As we move out of the current pandemic, economic viability will become more critical on a local, national and global scale. How can communities move forward with infrastructure projects to achieve their goals during a global recession? The answer: leverage multiple funding sources through grants and low-interest loans. Attacking one funding stream puts stress on that source and makes the process more competitive. Conversely, leveraging a variety of funding mechanisms alleviates stress and maximizes value.
It takes a village; leveraging multiple funding sources and opportunities is the present and future for infrastructure funding. These 6 steps can help you accomplish the process successfully.
Step 1: Research and review.
Research the funding possibilities of the local, regional, state, and federal government. Review eligibility criteria for each of the funding sources you’ve identified. Review the demographics of the service area, project location, and municipality. Review the maximum/minimum grant or loan amount, application deadline, types of eligible projects and entities that can receive funding.
Step 2: Describe and phase.
Identify how your project can impact the community, environment, and economy in a way that benefits grant eligibility. Structure the project’s description to match the maximum grant and/or loan funding scoring criteria. Have a project that is grant eligible, but the cost estimate makes it ineligible? There are multiple ways to divide projects into different parts that can be grant or loan eligible. Phasing the project to align with grant application deadlines and grant eligible amounts may also be helpful.
Step 3: Involve stakeholders.
Stakeholders want to be involved. Contact legislators, grant/loan agencies, your governing board, local residents—and get their buy-in. Discuss any pitfalls or issues that may arise, and describe how their project is eligible for the grant/loan funding you’ll pursue. Ask if they will lobby legislators or board members to conduct a preliminary review of the application and provide comments on the project’s viability.
Step 4: Know what you are applying for, and when.
Whether you’re applying for planning, design, bidding and construction, or anything else, it’s critical to know which grant agencies reimburse for which specific tasks. Timing of the application is also very important. You must secure funding during the planning phase, prior to design—most agencies will not reimburse for funds expended prior to the grant agreement date.
Step 5: Manage reimbursement requests.
Engage with the client to manage reimbursement requests. Know what each grant is for and how it is being spent so you can coordinate matching funds. Review which grant funds can be used as a match towards other grant funds, and vice versa. Keep detailed spreadsheets broken down by funding source, showing your total project expense per month or per invoice. These should also clearly define how much money is allocated to each grant and match source.
Step 6: Prepare for project closeout.
All grant agencies reserve the right to audit your expenditures, and many have interim inspections/audits. Be prepared with a filing structure that has all agreements, letters of approval, invoices, spreadsheets, copies of checks issued, reimbursement requests and amounts received easily accessible. You will need to account for all funds spent and received for your project.
Designating funding for specific projects can be an arduous task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to accomplish the goals of a community while remaining sustainable and economically sound. With so many options for funding available, qualified professionals like our team at Mead & Hunt can help clients navigate this confusing territory. Through careful planning, timing, and a little bit of seed money, we can help create a successful funding experience for our clients and communities.