The global economy is one of the many challenges being faced amid the COVID-19 crisis. President Trump encouraged Congress on April 7 to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at stimulating jobs by providing funding for critical infrastructure projects. While many municipalities may be hesitant to launch new infrastructure projects, now is a good time to position your utility for the future.
The federal funds are expected to be distributed through states to utilities that are ready to proceed and can advance their projects to market quickly. Before the legislation is officially passed, municipalities can begin working with their utilities to put their project in the best position to receive funds from the stimulus package.
Revisit Capital Improvement Plans
Now is the perfect time for municipalities to reestablish capital improvement plans and prioritize critical infrastructure improvements. The proposed stimulus package could provide up to 100% of the funds needed for projects, as it is expected to be similar to the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. Combine that with historically low interest rates, both factors make for an ideal time to advance critical infrastructure projects.
A Sharp Strategy
A project has advantages if it can move to construction quickly. That includes some level of planning, meaning a master plan, facility plan or a preliminary engineering plan has been created. Those documents lay the groundwork to move the project into construction where it can make a positive economic impact.
The fastest way to move a project from planning stage to construction is through a design-build project delivery approach where projects can move from planning through procurement and into construction in just a few months instead of years.
Projects that are ready to implement will receive top priority for federal funding. For example, drinking water supply, drought resilience and wastewater treatment work all stand a good chance of being considered a top priority as a critical infrastructure project, if they are ready to move to into construction quickly. Demonstrating the project’s readiness to proceed, community benefit, ability to move the project to market quickly to create jobs will move your projects to the top of the list.
Now is the time to take another look at capital improvement project plans and reprioritize to take advantage of stimulus funding and low interest rates.
Phil Walsack is a business development manager at Burns & McDonnell, working with municipalities to meet needs for water and wastewater services. He is a former environmental services manager, having delivered technical and regulatory guidance to hundreds of municipal water and wastewater utilities around the U.S. and abroad.