In a companion article, we looked at the wide variety of programs for which grants and other funding opportunities are available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). In this article, we provide tips for eligible entities (such as utilities, local governments and tribal governments) to research available grants and prioritize those that will provide the most benefit to their communities.
Guidebook to grants
The White House maintains a guidebook to the 380 programs funded under the IIJA. A helpful grid displays program names, the federal agency administering the program, the funding mechanism (grant, loan program, cooperative agreement, direct federal spending), applicant eligibility and program description. The guidebook can help eligible entities determine which programs may support their priority projects.
Assessing how many grants or projects an entity could successfully implement if it received all possible funding is an essential step before starting the grant application process. Entities should consider creating a funding matrix that displays the project category, the program name offering funds, open and close dates for grant applications, the agency/bureau name, eligible activities and the funding amount.
Federal grant basics
All applicants need a federal award identifier called a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), which is a 12-character alphanumeric ID assigned to an entity. You obtain a UEI by registering with SAM.gov (System for Award Management). This process can take 3-4 weeks. Once you have a UEI, you can register with Grants.gov and other department-specific grant portals, through which you can apply to grant opportunities.
Vetting grant opportunities
Vetting a potential funding opportunity to determine whether your organization and project fit the announcement’s funding priorities will optimize effort and increase grant application success. Organizations should consider the following questions:
Other things to consider
Much of the funding provided under the IIJA goes directly to individual states, in some cases using formulas dictated by certain state demographics. Then, each state determines how it will distribute funds, sometimes using a competitive grant process.
Because the law also aims to create more domestic jobs, it requires the iron, steel and manufactured products, as well as construction materials used in infrastructure projects to be produced in the U.S. It does permit waivers to this “Buy America” preference if, for example, there are insufficient supplies of certain materials or if meeting the requirement would increase the cost of a project by more than 25%. (Cement and aggregates such as stone, sand and gravel are not covered by this provision.)
Grant programs often award extra points if the project meets certain grant priorities, such as addressing the unique needs of underserved populations or promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Design your projects to meet such priorities and then specifically address how your project meets those priorities in the grant narrative.
Organizations applying for grants should know that new programs under the IIJA will likely take longer to set up and implement than allocations of funding to existing programs.
Finally, grant applications are usually not designed to be completed by one person, working alone. It is common for organizations to partner on grant proposals. Determine early on who your potential partners are and whether you will write grants internally or outsource your grant writing. This will allow you to best engage your stakeholders when a grant opportunity opens.
For more information or to learn how Baker Tilly's public sector grant specialists can help your organization, contact our team.