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Friday, July 20, 2018

EDA announces development of FDI toolkit for local communities

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

Following the June 20-22, 2018 SelectUSA Investment Summit, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that it is actively working with SelectUSA to develop a toolkit that will help communities implement more effective foreign direct investment (FDI) attraction and export promotion practices.

The International Engagement Ready Communities (IERC) project is a federal government initiative to assist U.S. communities to strengthen their local economies through FDI attraction and export promotion. The project aims to support economic development organizations (EDOs) by identifying and adopting economic development and workforce best practices related to FDI attraction and fostering a supportive environment for local exporters. This in turn will set the foundation for communities to enhance their FDI attraction strategies and create an innovative infrastructure to engage in the global market. 

The IERC initiative is an opportunity for organizations engaged in economic or infrastructure development opportunities to apply for $600,000 in funding to support empirical research on successful international engagement strategies and develop best practice reports and a competitiveness assessment tool. These elements will be incorporated into a user-friendly EDO toolkit and training guide to help local communities assess and increase their ability to become globally competitive while enhancing their trade and FDI promotion activities.

FDI plays an important role in the U.S. economy by helping to create jobs, increase wealth and living standards, and by helping to stimulate the overall growth and innovation that drives U.S. economic competitiveness. Many communities and regions across the nation have made attracting FDI a key component in building out their economic development strategies and EDA has helped to drive these strategies forward as FDI attraction remains one of EDA’s investment priorities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

DOT announces $1.5 billion in infrastructure grants

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On June 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $1.5 billion in Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grants. As outlined by the FAST Act, Congress now has 60 days to review the recently submitted projects. If Congress does not pass a resolution disapproving of the grant recipients within the 60-day timeline, the funds will be released to each awardee.

INFRA discretionary grants award competitive grant funding for eligible infrastructure projects in two different sized awards: large and small scale projects. To qualify for a grant, the project must be at least $25 million in scope for large scale projects and at least $5 million for smaller scale projects. This grant program is a continuation of FASTLANE, a pre-existing grant program established in the FAST Act. Eligible infrastructure projects that may receive funding include the reconstruction and rehabilitation of freight and highway infrastructure projects aligning with INFRA program goals, such as reducing highway congestion and bottlenecks.

A unique aspect of this round of INFRA discretionary grants is the implementation of the administration’s “One Federal Decision,” which will accelerate the environmental review process of these projects to reduce unnecessary delays. The new INFRA grants also include rural infrastructure projects, preserving the statutory requirement to award at least 25% of funding for rural projects.

Some communities are included in the initial list of awardees from DOT, which can be viewed here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

EDA launches 2018 RIS program competition

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On May 31, 2018, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) published the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the 2018 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.

With up to $21 million available through the 2018 RIS NOFO, this year’s program will help spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation through two separate grants: the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant competitions.

  • i6 Challenge ($16M): Across the country, regions and communities are helping entrepreneurs overcome challenging barriers to help build new companies and create jobs through the efforts of universities, community colleges, National Labs, state and local governments, incubators, and various other organizations. The i6 Challenge helps drive these efforts by supporting the creation and expansion of programs that increase the rate at which innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and research are translated into products, services, viable companies, and, ultimately, jobs.
  • Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant Competition ($5M): The availability of funding for early-stage companies is an essential element of a healthy innovation-based regional ecosystem. Taking an idea or innovation from concept to market often requires capital, but in many regions across the country, innovators and entrepreneurs struggle to find that capital. SFS grants provide funding for technical assistance and operational costs that support the planning, formation, launch, or scale of cluster-based seed funds that will invest their capital in innovation-based startups with a potential for high growth.

To date, the RIS program has invested in 140 projects, totaling $57 million in federal funding across 42 states and Puerto Rico, supporting the creation of hundreds of new businesses, thousands of new jobs, and millions in new venture funding. These projects are led by collaborative historically black colleges and universities, regional economic development organizations, forward thinking community colleges, leading non-profit business incubators and accelerators, unique rural, venture development organizations, and many other innovative organizations working hard to support entrepreneurship growth across their communities and industries.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to refer to the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFO) on grants.gov for more details on both the i6 Challenge and Seed Fund Support grants, including eligibility, matching-fund requirements, application and submission deadlines, and other information. Funding for both programs is available to all communities regardless of level of distress.

Monday, July 9, 2018

House approves minibus bill with Energy and Water funding

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On June 8, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a 2019 “minibus” appropriations spending package consisting of three appropriation bills. The legislation included the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water and Legislative Branch appropriations language previously approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The package received some bipartisan support, but was opposed by many Democrats due to provisions in the Energy and Water portion of the bill, which they argued would weaken environmental protections and hinder renewable energy development.

Despite these objections, the passage of this $147 billion measure moves forward three of the twelve annual federal appropriation bills, all of which must receive congressional approval by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, 2018. These three bills could now be approved by the Senate and subsequently sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law, though the Senate is working on its own version of each bill.

Most notably, the House “minibus” includes the $$44.7 billion FY 2019 Energy and Water Appropriations bill taken up by the committee in May. The bill funds U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works program, U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and several other federal government agencies. The Energy and Water Appropriations bill is important to rural communities and economic developers because it funds federal energy, water and flooding-related infrastructure projects.

The following programs and agencies are addressed in the bill:

  • Department of Energy (DOE): The bill contains $35.5 billion for DOE, $974 million above FY 2018 levels. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which works to develop and promote clean, affordable and secure energy, would see its budget reduced $2.08 billion. This is a decrease of $2.32 billion under the FY 2018 enacted budget of $2.32 billion. The bill also includes $267.7 million for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. This provision is relevant for communities with nuclear waste facilities, most of which were not designed to store spent nuclear fuel indefinitely.
  • S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) civil works program: The Army Corps, an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense, is tasked with building, maintaining and operating coastal and inland waterways, addressing flooding risk and strengthening ecosystem restoration through their civil works program. Under the House-passed bill, the Army Corps would receive $7.28 billion for FY 2019, $451 million above FY 2018 levels.
  • Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS): The bill also includes a policy rider to expedite the repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule issued under the Obama Administration. The EPA is currently in the process of withdrawing the 2015 rule and issuing a new rule in its replacement.
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

EDA announces new EDAP funding for 2018

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On July 2, 2018, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) published the FY 2018 Economic Development Assistance Programs (EDAP) notice of funding opportunity.

Under this notice, EDA solicits applications for construction, non-construction, planning, technical assistance, and revolving loan fund projects under EDA’s Public Works program and Economic Adjustment Assistance programs, which includes Assistance to Coal Communities.

Grants and cooperative agreements made under these programs are designed to leverage existing regional assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities, including those negatively impacted by changes to the coal economy.

Projects funded by these programs will support the DOC Strategic Plan (2018-2022) by, among other things: leading to the creation and retention of jobs and increased private investment, advancing innovation, enhancing the manufacturing capacities of regions, providing workforce development opportunities and growing ecosystems that attract foreign direct investment.

The “EDAP2018” opportunity supersedes the previously published “EDAP-2017” opportunity.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Water Resources Bill passed in House

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On June 11, 2018, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 8) in a 408 to 2 vote. The bill reauthorizes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which includes federal navigation, flood-control, storm damage projects, and feasibility studies across the United States. Once enacted into law, WRDA provisions must be funded through the annual appropriations process.

The bill did not include a provision on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) that had been initially included. The provision would have allowed the full use of HMTF for harbor maintenance purposes without the need of further congressional appropriations by FY 2029. The HMTF provision was removed from the bill after the Congressional Budget Office reported it would increase annual deficits by more than $5 billion over 10-years following its 2029 enactment date. The HMTF is a tax levied against importers and domestic shippers using ports and harbors in coastal and Great Lakes areas. Even though the HMTF has a large surplus, only a portion of its total is appropriated by Congress every year for operations and maintenance in American harbors.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects authorized in WRDA drive investment in navigation, flood protection and ecosystem restoration in communities. Local governments own and manage much of this infrastructure, including ports and harbors, inland waterways, levees, and damns that protect public health and safety and natural resources. WRDA is essential to helping communities build, maintain, and improve this critical infrastructure, while growing our national and local economies.

The Senate has been working on its WRDA bill titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 2800). Like the House bill, the Senate version includes provisions that will help communities improve America’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and improve stormwater management and does not include HMTF. The Senate bill advanced out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on May 22. Senate leaders indicated that the chamber will likely bring up the bill within the next several weeks.

WRDA is historically passed every two years. However, in the past decade, it has only been enacted three times, in 2007, 2014, and 2016. WRDA currently has a backlog of nearly $100 billion worth of projects that have been authorized but have not received appropriations. If passed by Congress, the current WRDA legislation would add to the list of projects awaiting Congressional appropriations.

Friday, June 22, 2018

South Dakota v. Wayfair decision allows states to collect online sales tax

posted by: Caroline Corona

On June 21, the Supreme Court released its decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, ruling that states can require online retailers to collect sales tax. The decision overturned the 1992 Quill v. North Dakota case that prohibited states from collecting sales tax from retailers with no locations or employees in the state. The case was heard based on the court’s dormant commerce clause, which restricts state taxation of interstate commerce; but the dissenting opinions wrote that the matter should be determined by Congress, not the court (U.S. Legal).

States are now able to collect billions from online retailers. Nineteen of the 20 largest retailers already collect state sales tax, and many who support the ruling say that the court’s 1992 decision was outdated for today’s economy. E-commerce is expanding rapidly, and the Government Accountability Office reported that states may have foregone as much as $13.7 billion in tax revenues from online retailers in 2017.

Some are concerned that the ruling will pave the way for states to enact more expansive and convoluted online sales tax laws because the court only judged South Dakota’s. Small businesses that conduct online sales are especially concerned that they will be forced to keep track of and comply with thousands of local sales tax policies. The debate will continue as states see how far they can go, and companies have called on Congress to enact federal standards.

The case made its way up the court system after South Dakota passed a law in 2016 that required retailers with more than $100,000 in annual sales or 200 transactions in the state to pay a 4.5 percent sales tax, and sued the online furniture company Wayfair when it failed to comply.

Monday, June 18, 2018

MBDA announces over $11 million in new funding grants

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On June 12, 2018, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) within the Department of Commerce announced that it is soliciting proposals that will positively impact minority-owned businesses and the communities they serve. This will be accomplished through projects that increase access to capital to resources that increase disaster preparedness and relief.

MBDA expects to award up to $11.65 million in grants to fund and implement innovative projects across the country. It is open to for-profit entities (including but not limited to sole-proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations), non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, commercial organizations, individuals, state and local government entities, or Indian Tribal governments.

The focal points of this funding opportunity are aligned with the Agency’s key priorities in support of minority-owned businesses. Priorities include:

  • Access to Capital
  • American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian Entities and/or Initiatives
  • Aquaculture
  • Disaster Readiness
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Entrepreneurship Education Program for Formerly Incarcerated Persons
  • Global Minority Women Economic Empowerment Initiative
  • Historically Black Colleges & Universities Initiative
  • Inclusive Infrastructure Initiative
  • Research
  • Space Commerce
  • Sustainable Business Model
  • Technology Transfer and Commercialization
  • Virtual Business Centers

The deadline to submit completed applications for the broad agency announcement is 11:59 pm Eastern Time on July 11, 2018. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as possible to receive funding for Fiscal Year 2018. For more information and to register for a pre-application teleconference visit www.mbda.gov/page/2018-mbda-broad-agency-announcement or www.mbda.gov.

Friday, June 15, 2018

House and Senate show support for economic development in spending bills

posted by: Matthew Mullin

The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have advanced their spending bills for fiscal 2019. Both chambers showed support for EDA, with the House maintaining current funding into the next fiscal year and the Senate providing a modest increase of roughly $4 million.

Accompanying report language for each bill provided additional insight into the concerns of committee members, including:

  • In the House version, the language specifically rebuts the White House proposal to eliminate EDA
  • Both the House and the Senate version again directed $30 million to assist coal communities
  • Communities impacted by a nuclear power plant closure received special mention, but no specific amount of funding, in the House version of the bill
  • The Senate version of the bill included a number of additional notices related to: boardband projects, outdoor creation projects, university-based incubators, and aiding the development of new forest products. None of these interests received specific funding.
  • The Northern Boarder Regional Commission would be aided by $3 million in directed EDA funding for aiding forest communities experiencing economic hardship
  • The Regional Innovation Program continues to receive bicameral support, with the Senate version calling for at least 40% of awards to go to rural communities.

The CJS bill also included additional economic development priorities of note:

  • The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) receives $40 million in the House bill ($1 million over fiscal 2018) and $39 million in the Senate bill (level with fiscal 2018)
  • The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) receives $140 million in both the House and the Senate bills (level with fiscal 2018)
  • The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) receives $5 million in the House bill ($10 million under fiscal 2018) and $15 million in the Senate bill (level with fiscal 2018)
  • SelectUSA receives $10 million in the Senate bill. There is no mention of SelectUSA in the House bill. SelectUSA was not included in current year appropriations
  • Census receives $3.8 billion in the Senate bill ($1 billion above fiscal 2018) and $4.8 billion in the House bill ($2 billion above fiscal $2018)

Overall, the bills are good news for economic development. The future of appropriations bills remains uncertain, however, as August recess and mid-term campaigning ramp-up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Congress reauthorizes EPA’s Brownfields program in FY 2018

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 omnibus spending package totaling $1.3 trillion in domestic and military spending. The bill included a reauthorization, as well as reforms to, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields program.

Brownfield sites are abandoned or under-utilized industrial and commercial properties, which are contaminated, or perceived to be contaminated, due to past practices. EPA’s Brownfields program was originally authorized in 2002 through the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. It provides technical assistance and grants for local communities to undertake brownfields redevelopment projects at old manufacturing and industrial facilities, abandoned mills, and mines, and areas with leaking underground storage tanks.

The FY 2018 omnibus appropriations package provided $80 million for EPA’s Brownfields project grant program, which is level funding with FY 2017. In addition to providing $80 million for the program through FY 2018, the omnibus included a provision to reauthorize EPA’s Brownfields program at a level of $200 million from FY 2019 through FY 2023. The program expired in 2006, but had been funded by Congress annually since its expiration due to its bipartisan popularity.

The omnibus also included policy riders geared toward improving the EPA Brownfields program to help more sites undergo cleanup activities, such as:

  • Expanding liability protections for voluntarily and involuntarily acquired brownfields sites for state and local governments;
  • Creating multipurpose brownfields grants up to $1 million allowing communities to undertake multiple site brownfield projects under the same grant;
  • Increasing funding for brownfields remediation clean up grants from $200,000 to $500,000 per grant and allowing EPA to waive that limit up to $650,000 based on need;
  • Classifying abandoned petroleum sites as brownfields if there is no viable responsible party, and if the EPA and the state determine the entity assessing and remediating the site is not liable to clean up the site;
  • Increasing grant eligibility for non-profits and for publicly-owned brownfields sites acquired prior to January 11, 2002;
  • Capping administrative costs at five percent, while stipulating that administrative costs do not include investigation and identification, design of response plan or monitoring activities; and
  • Providing small community technical assistance grants of $20,000 to states for communities with populations under 15,000 or in disadvantaged areas where the annual median household income is less than 80 percent of the state-wide annual median.

Congressional appropriators are already working on FY 2019 spending levels, which must be set and passed before the current fiscal year ends on September 30, 2018. In February, President Trump released his FY 2019 budget request, which outlined the administration’s federal spending priorities for the next fiscal year. The president requested $62 million for the EPA’s Brownfields program for FY 2019, a $18 million cut from the $80 million appropriated in FY 2017, though Congress will ultimately determine the final spending level for the program in FY 2019. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Labor report calls for apprenticeship expansion and workforce program cuts

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On May 10th, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion submitted a report with their recommendations on expanding apprenticeship in the U.S. to the President. The report includes some important recommendations focused on industry-driven strategies, but also continues a disturbing pattern of calls for cuts to vital workforce programs. This is worrying for economic developers, who urge the administration to strengthen the workforce and education systems instead of cutting investments to these systems.

The task force report is based on the work for four subcommittees over the past year and was called for by the President in his June 2017 Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeship in America. Each subcommittee made a series of recommendations to the President in the May 10th report.

In brief:

  • The Subcommittee on Education and Credentialing focused on the components of an industry recognized apprenticeship program (IRAP), and recommended to avoid wage progression for apprentices that correspond with their growing skill level. It also called for DOL and Education to be partners with industry to increase access to virtual learning.
  • The Subcommittee on Attracting Business to Apprenticeship recommended a robust analysis of the skill shortages and the role apprenticeship can play in meeting business skill demands. It also recommended the Departments of Labor, Education and Commerce develop a centralized online community with apprenticeship resources.
  • The Subcommittee on Expanding Access, Equity and Career Awareness recommended launching an awareness campaign, supporting pre-apprenticeship, and promoting the use of technology in apprenticeship programs. It also recommended that DOL implement clear guidelines “that reinforce the principles of equity.”
  • The Subcommittee on Administrative and Regulatory Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship recommended IRAP implementation begin with a pilot program focused on an industry without a well-established registered apprenticeship system. It also suggested the system should focus on competency, not seat time requirements.

Earlier this year, Congress appropriated $145 million to apprenticeship expansion, specifically focused on registered apprenticeship. DOL is tasked with submitting a report to Congress by September 30th 2018 describing their allocation of these funds. Over the past two years, DOL has allocated more than $100 million to 36 states to expand innovating apprenticeship strategies. Appropriated funds have also been used to support industry and equity intermediary contracts to national organizations working with apprenticeship sponsors and businesses to expand apprenticeship. DOL has used remaining funds appropriated in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 for contracts to build out online resources on apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship, consistent with the task force recommendations.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

EPA now accepting WIFIA applications

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 16, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is now accepting letters of interest for loans provided through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to support water infrastructure projects.

The WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program within EPA that aims to accelerate investment in American water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects. The new funding announcement is designed to provide up to $5.5 billion in loans and leverage over $11 billion for water infrastructure projects.

The WIFIA program helps finance the repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of aging infrastructure and conveyance system, primarily those with an anticipated cost of $20 million or more. However, recognizing the need for investment in both large and small communities, Congress has stipulated that 15% of WIFIA funds be set aside each year for small communities serving fewer than 25,000 residents. Such projects have a lower-cost threshold for eligibility, only requiring an anticipated cost of $5 million or more.

The WIFIA program received $63 million in funding in the FY2018 omnibus appropriations package, more than doubling the program’s overall funding from 2017. In 2017, EPA invited 12 projects across nine states to apply for WIFIA loans totaling over $2 billion.

WIFIA credit assistance can be used for a wide range of projects including drinking water treatment and distribution; wastewater conveyance and treatment; enhanced energy efficiency at drinking water and wastewater facilities; desalination; water recycling; and drought prevention or mitigation projects, many of which involve water infrastructure owned and maintained by local communities.

Prospective borrowers seeking WIFIA credit assistance must submit a letter of interest (LOI) by July 6.

Friday, May 4, 2018

TIGER grants to be replaced by new BUILDS program

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 20th, 2018, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the release of a new transportation infrastructure grant program that will replace the current Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant program. The Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program will disburse $1.5 billion for surface transportation infrastructure projects with significant local or regional impacts, including funding for roads, bridges, transit, rail or port support.

The BUILD program encourages local governments to develop a proven non-federal revenue stream for infrastructure projects. Also, the program does not allow new bond issuing to count towards this revenue goal, unless the applicant raises, or commits to raising, new funds to repay the bond. Funding can come from state, local and private sector investors, or other forms of cost-sharing such as toll credits, sales and gas tax measures and asset recycling. In addition, the funds may be used by rural areas for broadband deployment.

DOT will evaluate BUILD applications on the following criteria: safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnerships and additional non-federal revenue for infrastructure investments. The $1.5 billion will come from the recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-141).

The BUILDS program coincides with the Trump administration’s plan to encourage local and state governments to put more funding into projects. However, unlike proposed funding for many of President Trump’s infrastructure priorities, the BUILDS grant program will contribute up to 80% of project costs for urban area projects and up to 100% for projects in rural communities.

As with TIGER grants, economic developers, local communities, and other stakeholders may apply directly or jointly with other local or state entities for this funding. The application deadline is July 19, 2018.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

EPA to clarify WOTUS withdrawal process

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a supplemental notice to clarify the agencies’ efforts to withdraw the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The notice aims to clarify confusion caused by the initial proposal in 2017 which outlined the process EPA would use to withdraw the 2015 rule.

WOTUS is a term used in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to determine which waters and their conveyances fall under federal or state permitting authority. In 2014, the EPA and the Corps undertook an effort to rewrite and expand the current WOTUS definition and this rule was finalized in 2015. Since the rule was originally proposed, many communities expressed concerns about the impact a broader interpretation of WOTUS may have on locally-owned and maintained roads and roadside ditches, bridges, flood control channels, drainage conveyances and wastewater and stormwater systems.

The initial July 2017 notice, “Waters of the United States” – Recodification of Pre-Existing Rules, was the first step of a two-step process to review and rewrite the 2015 rule. The “step 1 proposal” would withdraw the 2015 rule and reinstitute regulations in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS rule.  With the introduction of the supplemental notice, the second step in the process to rewrite the current WOTUS definition will likely be delayed. Originally, the proposal to rewrite the rule was expected to be released in June 2018.

The new notice has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review, which could take 60 days or more. When OMB is finished with the review, the new proposal will be officially published in the Federal Register and open for public comment for 30 days.

Monday, April 23, 2018

New changes to FEMA flood insurance program

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 3rd, 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced new program changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in accordance with the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-2012) and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA).

NFIP is the largest provider of flood insurance coverage for property owners in communities across the U.S. It aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures by providing affordable insurance to property owners, renters and business, as well as encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations designed to help mitigate the effects of flooding on new and improved structures.

FEMA’s new changes to the NFIP include updated insurance policy premiums that conform to the premium rate caps established by the BW-12 and HFIAA. NFIP policy holders who receive coverage through the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) program will see an increase of 8% in their annual policies, which on average will increase premiums from $866 per policy to $935.

ICC coverage is included under NFIP’s Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP). ICC is designed to help policyholders with the cost they incur if they are required by a state or local government agency to meet rebuilding standards after a flood. ICC coverage provides up to $30,000 to help pay for relocating, elevating, demolishing and floodproofing non-residential buildings.

Later this year, on October 1, 2018, FEMA will implement additional changes to the NFIP including:

  • Allowing policy holders who purchase a private flood insurance policy to cancel their duplicate NFIP policy;
  • Requiring NFIP insurers to notify certain policyholders of a lower-cost premium option;
  • Extending the eligibility for the newly mapped procedure rating option.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SBA 504 Loan now offered with 25 year maturity

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 4, 2018, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it is making available a 504 Loan, and the Debenture that funds it, with a 25 year maturity in addition to the 10 and 20 year 504 Loan and Debenture that are currently available in the 504 Loan Program.

The 504 Loan Program provides long-term financing to small businesses for the purchase or improvement of land, buildings, and major equipment, in an effort to facilitate the creation or retention of jobs and local economic development. Loans are made to small businesses by Certified Development Companies (CDCs), which are certified and regulated by SBA to promote economic development within their community.

The Loan Program is financed by a loan obtained from a private sector lender with a senior lien covering at least 50% of the project cost (the “Third Party Loan”); a loan obtained from a CDC (the “504 Loan”) with a junior lien covering up to 40% of the total cost (backed by a 100% SBA-guaranteed debenture sold in private pooling transactions); and a contribution from the Borrower of at least 10% equity.

This new 25 year 504 Debenture will be made available for 504 Projects that are approved on or after April 2, 2018.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Federal disaster recovery funding now available

posted by: Charlotte Scott

On Tuesday, April 10, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), within the Department of Commerce, has released its FY 18 Disaster Supplemental Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), which will provide $587 million in grants to communities where a Presidential declaration of a major disaster was issues under the Stafford Act as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, wildfires, and other natural disasters that occurred in 2017. These grants will be administered through the agency’s Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program, which will channel the funds through a wide range of technical, planning, and public works and infrastructure assistance.

Here is the list of eligible applicants under this program: (i) District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District (EDD); (ii) Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes; (iii) State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, including a special purpose unit of a State or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities, or a consortium of political subdivisions; (iv) institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education; or (v) public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a State.

The agency states that there is no application deadline, and that the proposals will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. This grant program will continue to operate until all funds have been depleted, or if the NOFO is re-published or cancelled.

This new $587 million grant program represents the agency’s efforts to mobilize and generate a plan following the $600 million received in February under the Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2018. The grants aim to foster economic resiliency to distressed communities by preventing prolonged economic dislocation after these disasters. To preview and learn more about the applications, visit: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=302953&utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

On the same day, Secretary Ben Carson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that $28 billion of funds will be provided through its Community Development Block Grant- Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. This $28 billion represents the largest single amount of disaster recovery assistance in HUD’s history. The program will target seriously damaged housing, businesses, and infrastructure from major disasters that have occurred since 2015 across nine states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands will be the top recipients of these funds. $12 billion of this amount will be allocated to areas which experienced major disasters in 2017.

HUD announced that the grantees are required to spend the majority of these recovery funds in what HUD has identified as the “most impacted” areas. In the press release, HUD states that it plans to release administrative guidelines for grantees use of the funds in addressing long-term recovery needs. Read HUD’s full press release here, which includes a breakdown of funds awarded by state/territory: https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_18_028

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

FAA announces development grants for rural airports

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 9, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new round of capital development funding assistance for a maximum of 15 joint-use or former military airports that participate in the Military Airport Program (MAP).

The MAP provides capital development assistance to civilian airport sponsors of designated joint-use military airfields or former military airports that are included in the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Under the program, airport sponsors designated to the MAP may receive set-aside grant funds from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) (4% of discretionary funds) for airport development that will assist the airport sponsor in successfully transitioning the airport from military to civilian use.

Designated airport sponsors may receive up to $7 million per fiscal year for terminal projects and up to $7 million for construction, improvement, or repair of fuel farms, utility systems, surface automobile parking lots, hangars, and air cargo terminals that are not larger than 50,000 square feet. Revenue generating projects that may not normally be AIP eligible at the airport may be considered through the MAP to assist in the conversion of a military joint-use or former military facility to civilian use.

A maximum of 15 airports may participate in the MAP at any time. Three of the 15 may be general aviation (GA) airports; the remainder must be commercial service or reliever airports. In FY 2018, there are 12 slots available in the program; however, there are no openings available for GA airports

Applications must be received no later than June 8, 2018. More information on how to apply can be found here.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The State of Federal Economic Development delivered at the 2018 FED Forum

posted by: Charlotte Scott

On Monday, March 26, IEDC President and CEO Jeff Finkle, delivered the State of Federal Economic Development speech at the annual FED Forum conference in Washington, D.C. Jeff touched upon a variety of policy issues and highlights that have affected the economic development landscape within the past year. Jeff emphasized administrative barriers that have proved to be operational and structural challenges for certain agencies, noting in particular the significant lack of major political appointees at agencies such as the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Export-Import Bank of the U.S., and the Census Bureau.

Beyond the challenges, Jeff noted several of recent legislative accomplishments for federal economic development, including the $600 million EDA received via the disaster recovery supplemental appropriation under the bipartisan legislation regarding spending caps that passed earlier this February. This was a huge win for the EDA, as this amount represents almost triple their usual annual budget. In addition, Jeff highlighted the success across the board for almost all economic development agencies and programs in the recently passed Omnibus spending bill. Jeff summarized some of these highlights, which included, $1.5 billion for the Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant program (a $1 billion increase from FY 17), $600 million for a new rural broadband grant and loan pilot program, $80 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program, and significant overall budget increases for EDA, Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Minority Business Development Agency.

Jeff warned that despite these recent wins, federal economic development programs remain under attack, especially with the White House FY 19 Budget Proposal aiming to eliminate or cut funding for many of these agencies and programs. The proposal also includes reorganization plans that would reduce certain agencies’ ability to continue their active, hands-on operations. Therefore, Jeff concluded that it is still important for the economic development community to continue their outreach to politicians on the hill who champion these programs.

The link below can be used to download presentations from the 2018 FED Forum.

https://www.iedcevents.org/FEDForum/Downloads.html

Friday, March 30, 2018

White House budget and MBDA restructuring

posted by: Charlotte Scott

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) was established in 1969 under the U.S. Department of Commerce. From its inception, the agency has helped facilitate growth and global competitiveness among businesses owned and operated by minority entrepreneurs. MBDA offers a range of services and programs, which provide clients with technical assistance, access to capital and finance management, contract opportunities, and access to new markets. In FY 2015 alone, the agency helped generate 26,896 jobs and awarded more than $5.9 billion in contracts and capital.

            MBDA fills an essential and targeted role in promoting the economic prosperity of minority-owned business, which in total, contribute over $1.4 trillion annually to the U.S.’s economic output, and directly account for 7.2 million U.S. jobs. The agency helps foster a more inclusive economy, promoting an economic environment that benefits all citizens.

            MBDA was marked for elimination in the White House FY 18 budget proposal, but was not in the FY 19 proposal. This indicates a shift in a positive direction; however, ongoing turnover has left the agency without a permanent director. On February 27, 2018, Acting National Director Chris Garcia resigned amid security clearance issues, and was replaced by Edith Jett McCloud. Although the agency is no longer set for elimination, the FY 19 White House budget proposal outlines major reorganization of MBDA’s structure and operations. The budget proposes to eliminate all 40 of the agency’s business outreach centers, claiming they are, “duplicative of programs operated by other Federal agencies…” The White House aims to re-establish the MBDA as a policy office, which will advocate for minority businesses across other Federal programs and agencies. This plan would mark a significant shift in the agency’s purpose.

            This potential restructuring would directly affect MBDA’s ability to continue its active, hands-on role within the economic development, and would require a complete transformation of its internal operations. For now however, MBDA is stable due to the recently passed Omnibus bill, which appropriates the agency $39 million. This number reflects a $6 million increase from FY 17. This final bill does not include any restructuring plans for MBDA, meaning that the President’s plan is temporarily postponed. However, it still remains important to continue monitoring the political discussion surrounding the agency in order to track the progress of potential legislation that will push this plan forward.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Federal Alert: We need your help – sign our letter supporting EDA!

posted by: Matthew Mullin

Thank you to those organizations that have signed onto our letter so far. There’s still time to add your voice – and we need your voice added! – in support of the Economic Development Administration.  Here’s what you need to know:

  • EDA has been marked for elimination, again, in the fiscal 2019 White House Budget proposal
  • EDA wasn’t even mentioned – at all – in the Department of Commerce’s five year strategic plan released last week
  • EDA received a $100 million cut in funding in their House appropriations bill for the current fiscal year

To be brief: EDA remains under attack, despite receiving broad, bipartisan support in Congress in the recent debate over disaster recovery funding. $600 million worth of bipartisan support, in fact. EDA needs our support today and tomorrow and for the foreseeable future.

Click the link below and add your organization to the growing list of supporters. Help us share the message that economic developers want a strong, robustly funded economic development agency. In the weeks and months ahead, IEDC will continue to engage Congress as we wrap up fiscal 2018 funding and dive into fiscal 2019 funding. We can’t do it without you!

Sign the letter today: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfklHLrZkvcTUhG-0fQjc5pmHB_7KyKPDeQwCUAAFY6gEDqTg/viewform

IEDC’s 2018 FED Forum will take place here in Washington in just a few weeks. There’s still time to register and join your colleagues. We’ll be talking access to capital, manufacturing, infrastructure, workforce development, entrepreneurship and federal resources for urban and rural communities. In many cases, we’ll be joined by the top federal officials overseeing these program areas. Check out the conference website for more details and to register.

Please contact Matt Mullin, Senior Director, Public Policy & Strategic Engagement at mmullin@iedcoline.org for questions, comments or concerns.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

BUILDS Act introduced in the House

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 6, 2018, House Representatives Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation called the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demand for Skills (BUILDS) Act (H.R. 4942). The legislation would support grants to industry partnerships in transportation, construction, energy, and other infrastructure industries. Department of Labor will work in consultation with the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and other federal agencies to administer the grants for local partnerships developing work-based learning programming for a diverse pipeline of skilled workers.

In 2017, the Trump administration released as set of infrastructure principles that included a goal of training a million new apprentices over 2 years. The President’s State of the Union address earlier this year included a call for infrastructure investments, however, without a clear emphasis on the link between the investment and developing a pipeline of workers.

BUILDS Act would set aside funding from a Congressional infrastructure package for workforce development. This funding would be used to train workers needed to help businesses in targeted industries grow and maintain the workforce necessary to keep up with demand, while also ensuring that a diverse range of workers could access the training and credentials needed to find sustainable, family-supporting job in these fields.

According to the National Skills Coalition, businesses in infrastructure are currently facing intense labor shortages because of impending retirements, lack of diversity in the workforce, and overall skill shortages in growth industries. Departments of Education and Labor report that there are 68% more projected job openings in infrastructure jobs over the next 5 years than there are students training for these jobs. Meanwhile, According to a member survey conducted by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association has released a member survey which indicates that its members are poised to lose out on close to $200 million in revenues this year due to unfulfilled technical jobs.

The Senate version of BUILDS was introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in the summer of 2017.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Appropriations season is here and we need your help

posted by: Matthew Mullin

The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution until March 23rd. Full-year appropriations are likely forthcoming in the form of an omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2018. We need your help to make sure EDA receives support in the current and next fiscal years – a debate which is taking place right now. There are three calls to action below.

Where we stand now

Congress passed a two-year budget deal earlier this year that significantly increased defense and non-defense discretionary spending limits, effectively eliminating the budget caps previously in place. Tucked away in this deal was $600 million for EDA to lead the way in helping communities impacted by disaster last year recover and rebuild. All of this is, in theory, very good news for EDA and other federal economic development programs.

What happens next

Congress still has not passed full-year appropriations for the current fiscal year. Individually, the House and Senate moved two bills on EDA funding; the former passed the House and the later passed out of committee but has not been brought to the Senate floor. The White House request included a small amount of funding to provide for an orderly shutdown of the agency. As you can see, there significant variation between funding levels.

  • House: $175 million for fiscal 2018
  • Senate: $254 million for fiscal 2018
  • White House: $30 million for fiscal 2018 (to fund an orderly shutdown of the agency)

For the current fiscal year, there remains a possibility for significant cuts to EDA despite the fact that Congress appropriated $600 million in disaster supplemental funding. EDA must still engage in their day-to-day work helping to build stronger, more resilient economies using their annual appropriation, completely separate from their work in disaster recovery. We cannot take for granted that Congress will take action to fully fund EDA in the current year. We need your help:

  • Reach out to your Members of Congress and ask them to support EDA in coming omnibus
  • Thank them for their support of EDA’s role in disaster recovery; the $600 million in critical funding will do so much good across the country!
  • Remind them that EDA has a day-to-day role in local and regional job creation that needs strong funding
  • EDA was funded at $276 million in fiscal 2017 and urge them to provide at least level funding with last year

For fiscal year 2019, it will be much the same. The White House, despite themselves requesting $300 million in disaster supplemental funding for EDA, included only $15 million in funding for EDA.

The House and the Senate will soon begin to consider their spending bills for fiscal 2019. We are urging funding at least level with fiscal 2017 for EDA -- $276 million. We’re asking you to consider adding your name to this letter.

IEDC and our partners at the Ridge Policy Group will compile the letters by Member of Congress and leadership office and disseminate them accordingly. With your voice and leadership, EDA and other critical federal economic development programs will have their best chance for surviving the continued attack on their funding.

Come to Washington

Finally, the 2018 FED Forumhttps://www.iedcevents.org/FEDForum/Registration.html is taking place at the end of next month. Regular registration has been extended until March 9th, though the hotel is filling up fast! While much of the news that is coming out of Washington is negative and seems focused on anything but economic development, the FED Forum will bring focus to myriad programs, policies, and best practices that can help you in your community still. Some highlights include:

  • Infrastructure! We’ve got a proposal of sorts from the White House and bipartisan agreement in Congress that something must be done. Economic developers must be engaged right now in order to secure our priorities in whatever bill or bills may come.
  • Manufacturing programs throughout the federal government continue to support areas ranging from workforce, to R&D, to tech transfer, to basic science. We’ve got a great panel put together that you won’t want to miss.
  • ‘A city boy’ and a ‘small town girl’ will take us on a journey (get it?) to key offerings in economic development for cities and rural communities. As many of these programs have experienced and continue to experience changes in the last year, it is more important than ever to connect with federal officials and experts.
  • Keynote from Dennis Alvord, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs from EDA, during our luncheon on Monday, which will also feature our annual awards presentation for federal leadership in economic development.
  • Volunteering, networking, touring, laughing and pancakes: all of these will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the FED Forum. We’ll cap-off Sunday with FED Talks, where we turn the mic over to you and your colleagues for enlightening entertaining discussions on how the federal government is, and isn’t working for you.
  • While you’re here, spend some time visiting with your staff contacts on the Hill. Congress will be in recess that week – probably – which means it is the best time to connect and reconnect with staff in personal offices and committee offices.

In conclusion:

  • Call your Member of Congress and tell them you need EDA and ask for their support for them in the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill.
  • Sign-on to our letter supporting EDA in the coming fiscal 2019 spending
  • Register for the FED Forum! Learn the latest and offer your perspective.

IEDC was very pleased with the inclusion of EDA in the disaster supplemental. This victory would not have been possible without your direct support and intervention!  A modest sigh of relief is warranted, but that is all. We must continue to urge support for EDA. We need your help.

Join us at the FED Forum next month. If you have any questions, please contact Matt Mullin, Senior Director, Public Policy & Strategic Engagement at mmullin@iedconline.org

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in brief

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 12, 2018, the White House has released its long-awaited vision of a new federal infrastructure overhaul, which would total $1.5 trillion. The infrastructure plan comprises mainly two parts: grant funding and regulatory reform.

The plan calls for $200 billion over 10 years in new federal spending, with the goal of leveraging those dollars to yield a total of $1.5 trillion in new spending and financing for infrastructure projects across the country. In addition to the grant components and regulatory reforms mentioned in the plan, the plan also dedicates sections to workforce development reforms, designed to support work-based learning, career and technical education.

There are four main components of the plan, three of which involve funding allocations and one which deals with regulatory streamlining measures:

  • The first component accounts for 50% of the new package’s funding and would go towards a new “incentives program,” which economic developers could access to cover as much as 20% of funding towards an infrastructure project. Traditionally, the federal government has contributed as much as 80% towards infrastructure projects. This change, which only applies to this infrastructure plan, would call for local governments to increase their financial contribution for a project, whether it be from existing revenue shifting or private sector partnerships.
  • The second component is dedicated to rural infrastructure, allocating $50 billion for infrastructure in communities with 50,000 residents or less. Grant program funding would be controlled by state governors, who would determine which projects the funding supports. Plan language implies that local investments from public or private sectors may be expected. Transportation, broadband water resources, storm water and waste water infrastructure, and power and electric facilities are named as prime sectors for these funds.
  • The third grant program calls for $20 billion to go towards “transformative projects.” This notion would build upon President Trump’s calls during the 2016 presidential campaign for new, transformative projects of “national significance.” The availability of funds would be determined by the projects’ stages: 30% for demonstration; 50% for planning; and 80% for capital construction.
  • The plan’s final funding component calls for the expansion of federal loan programs to $14 billion, many of which are used by economic developers, local, and state governments. These lending programs, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation loans, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation loans and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, provide low interest loans for projects.

Considerable focus has also been given to the streamlining of the permit process for undertaking infrastructure projects. Most notably, the administration has introduced a “One Agency, One Decision” process in which one lead agency would be responsible for greenlighting project permits.

The White House has stated it is open to revisions to their plan, as Congress will be tasked with crafting legislation. It has been suggested that as many as 11 separate congressional committees could have sections of jurisdiction within the infrastructure package as they process the plan into a legislative text.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

NIST seeking public comments on National Plan for Advanced Manufacturing

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 5, 2018, the National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a Request for Information (RFP) which seeks input from all interested parties on the development of a National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. OSTP seeks input from the public on ways to improve government coordination and on long-term guidance for federal programs and activities in support of United States manufacturing competitiveness, including advanced manufacturing research and development that will create jobs, grow the economy across multiple industrial sectors, strengthen national security, and improve healthcare.

Through this Request for Information, OSTP seeks responses to a number of questions to improve government coordination and provide long-term guidance for federal programs and activities in support of United States manufacturing competitiveness, including advanced manufacturing R&D.

Responses are due by March 7, 2018. Instructions on submitting a response can be found on the NIST website.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Federal Alert: Two Major White House Proposals

posted by: Charlotte Scott

This past week, the White House made two major announcements, including an infrastructure plan and their budget proposal for fiscal 2019. Both proposals have far-reaching implications for economic developers.

White House Budget Proposal

The proposal includes a plan to bolster defense spending to $716 billion, while imposing heavy budget cuts that limit non-defense discretionary spending to $540 billion. Trump aims to mitigate the nation’s growing deficit via this budget strategy. Here are the overall highlights:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Department of Defense will all see significant funding increases
  • HUD, EPA, Labor Department will all see significant funding cuts
  • Opioids and Mental Health will receive an additional $10 billion in funding
  • The Department of Homeland Security will receive an additional $5.1 B
    • Including $1.6 billion for 65 miles of border wall, $2.8 billion to increase immigration detention to 52,000 beds per day, $782 million to hire an additional 2,750 officers and agents at CBP and ICE

How does this proposal affect economic development?

Department of Agriculture:

  • Eliminates the Rural Business-Cooperative Service
  • Eliminates the Rural Water and Wastewater Grants program while modifying the loan program to expand the eligible community size ceiling to 20,000
  • Eliminates the Rural Economic Development Grants program

Department of Commerce:

  • Eliminates the Economic Development Administration
  • Eliminates the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), it directs MEP centers to transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources.
  • The Budget requests $9.8 billion for DOC (including changes in mandatory programs), a $546 million or a 6-percent increase from the 2017 enacted level.
  • Establish Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) as a policy office, and eliminates their business outreach centers.

Department of Defense:

  • Provides $10.5 million for the Office of Economic Adjustment
  • Does not call for a round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC)

Department of Housing and Urban Development:

  • Eliminates the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

Department of Labor:

  • Funding cuts for National Dislocated Worker Grants and Adult Employment and Training Activities
  • Nearly doubled funding for apprenticeships from $95 million to $200 million

Department of Transportation:

  • TIGER program is eliminated
  • Limiting funding of the Capital Investment Grant program to projects that already have secured funding agreements

It is important to note that the President released this budget proposal just days after Congress passed budget legislation that significantly increased funding for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Perhaps with more time to adjust, this proposal would have provided a less aggressive budget cut strategy. We will continue to track the progress of this proposal and any changes that should arise, but it is worth noting that it is exactly this: a proposal. Congress will ultimately decide what to fund and at what levels.

IEDC will be reaching out shortly to offer guidance and resources on how best to engage your elected officials here in Washington. In the meantime, please take a moment to review our ‘Why Invest Brochure’ and consider sharing it with your colleagues, local stakeholders and elected officials.

Infrastructure Proposal

With a $200 billion investment in Federal funds, the plan claims that it will generate roughly $1.3 trillion via public-private financing at state, local, Tribal, and private levels. The main areas the plan aims to tackle are:

  • Encouraging Rural Investment
    • $50 billion will be devoted to a new Rural Infrastructure Program, which will allocate the bulk of these funds to State governors.
  • Increasing State and Local Authority
    • The Incentives Program and the Rural Infrastructure Program will award funds directly to state and local authorities, who can decide which projects to prioritize.
    • The plan will expand processed that allow environmental review and permitting decisions to be delegated to States.
    • The plan allows Federal agencies to divest assets that can be better managed by State or local governments or the private sector.
  • Reducing Regulatory Barriers to Streamline Projects
    • The plan intends to increase flexibility of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and transportation projects with minimal Federal funding.
    • The Superfund program plans to expand funding eligibility for land revitalization projects and provide tools for managing their legal and financial matters.
  • Altering the Environmental Permitting Process
    • A “one agency, one decision” structure will be established for environmental review, transforming it from a consecutive to a concurrent review process, aiming to shorten it to a two-year operation.
  • Strengthening Workforce Development
    • The plan will reform the Perkins Career and Technical Education Program, and create short-term programs that provide students with a certification or credential in an in-demand field eligible for Pell Grants.
    • The plan will also target Federal Work-Study funds.

Trump aims to “layer over” existing trust funds by administering block grants, relying heavily on public-private investment to reach the $1.3 trillion goal. This plan highlights the many regulatory issues and barriers that delay infrastructure development. Introducing this infrastructure plan will likely incite Congressional debate surrounding these issues, which could potentially lead to significant legislative fixes in the long run.

The next few months will be packed with debate and, hopefully, legislative action. IEDC will continue to share updates with you as these and more initiatives move forward. We will be talking about all thing federal economic development at the 2018 FED Forum, taking place March 25th – 27th here in Washington, DC. There’s still plenty of time to register and we’re adding new speakers daily – register here today!

Please contact Matthew Mullin, Senior Director, Public Policy & Strategic Engagement at mmullin@iedconline.org with any questions or concerns.

Monday, February 12, 2018

CDFI Program to award $183.5 million in 2018

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 1, 2018, the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund published the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) inviting the applications for Fiscal Assistance (FA) awards of Technical Assistance (TA) grants under the CDFI program the fiscal year 2018 funding round, totalling approximately $183.5 million.

Through the CDFI Program, the CDFI Fund provides FA awards of up to $1 million to Certified CDFIs to build their capacity to lend to their target markets, and TA grants of up to $125,000 to build certified, certifiable, and emerging CDFIs’ organizational capacity to serve their target markets. The CDFI Fund expects to award approximately $183.5 million in FY 2018. Funds for the FY 2018 funding round are subject to change based on passage of a final FY 2018 budget. If Congress does not appropriate funds for the CDFI Program, there will not be an FY 2018 funding round.

The CDFI Fund was established by the Riegle Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions Act of 1994 to promote economic revitalization and community development through investment in and assistance to CDFIs. Since its creation, the CDFI Fund has awarded more than $2.5 billion to for-profit and non-profit community-based lending organizations known as CDFIs. These organizations serve rural and urban low-income people, and communities across the nation that lack adequate access to affordable financial products and services.

The FY 2018 funding round will begin in late September 2018. For more information about this NOFA, as well as application requirements, please see the Federal Register.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Supreme Court determines WOTUS jurisdiction

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided where the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule should be heard first in the court system. The nine justices ruled unanimously that federal district courts have jurisdiction, rather than the appeals courts. This potentially invalidates the nationwide stay issued by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2015.

WOTUS is a term used in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to determine what waters and their conveyances fall under federal verses state permitting authority. In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) rewrote and expanded the WOTUS definition, finalizing the rule in 2015. Subsequently, lawsuits were filed in both appeals and district courts arguing that EPA and the Corps had overreached in their authority to regulate certain bodies of water. However, there was significant debate whether district or appeals court had the authority to hear the case, setting the stage for the recent SCOTUS decision.

Once the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals put a nationwide stay on the rule, it could not be implemented nationally until the stay is lifted. However, now that SCOTUS decided that the cases belong in the district courts, there is some confusion about how this decision will impact the nationwide stay.

The 6th Circuit is expected to lift the nationwide stay in the upcoming weeks. At this point, the 2015 rule would go into effect in 37 states, likely resulting in additional lawsuits in the district courts. The other 13 states – Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico – put the stay on the rule within their districts since 2015.

Anticipating a decision by SCOTUS, the Trump administration released a proposed rule late last year to delay implementation of the 2015 rule for two years. EPA estimates that this rule will be finalized in the next month. Concurrently, the Administration is working on an effort to withdraw the 2015 rule and recodify pre-existing regulations, while they work on a new WOTUS rewrite.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

SBA increases licensing and examination fees

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On December 13, 2017, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has implemented a rule that revised its regulations to increase the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) licensing and examination fees. SBA last increased fees for SBIC in 1996.

The Small Business Investment Act of 1958, as amended, allows SBA to collect licensing and examination fees to offset SBA's costs associated with the administration of these two activities. Current fees offset less than 40% of SBA's administrative expenses related to these activities. This final rule increases SBIC licensing and examination fees in annual steps through October 2020, at which time SBA estimates that the annual fees will recoup approximately 80% of SBA's annual expenses directly related to these activities. Beginning in October 2021, this rule increases licensing and examination fees annually based on inflation.

The rationale for this rule is based on the fact that SBA's major expenses are related to licensing and examination (e.g., personnel compensation and benefits associated with licensing and examinations, technology, subscription services, travel, and other associated costs), and excludes SBA's overhead costs (e.g., office space, utilities, and other supporting offices within SBA). In FY 2016, licensing and examination fees reimbursed approximately 35% of SBA's direct licensing and examination expenses, and less than a quarter of SBA's licensing and examination expenses when including overhead.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Government shutdown ends with third CR

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On January 22, 2018, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a temporary funding bill, or continuing resolution (CR), to fund the federal government through February 8, 2018. President Trump signed the legislation, soon after officially ending the shutdown, which lasted just under three days.

A breakthrough in negotiations was made after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to allow a floor vote on immigration legislation in February. House leadership, however, has not yet indicated whether it would follow suit.

Central to the shutdown was insistence that legislation would contain clarification on the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy before its expiration on March 6th. The current DACA provisions, established by an Executive Order signed by former President Barack Obama, provided certain legal protections for those who came to the United States as children with their parents, including protection from deportation. Leader McConnell’s assurance that a bill addressing DACA would come to the Senate floor for debate paved the way for a shutdown-ending vote, which passed with bipartisan support 81-18.