Even though $60 million was cut from EPA's budget and staffing levels are their lowest since 1989, the 2015 federal budget provides the full $2.2 million authorized by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 to set up a new competitive loan program for water and sewer projects.
The funding covers the costs of developing the administrative infrastructure necessary to implement the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). It’s hoped the agency will devise a subsidy model for the White House Office of Management and Budget to approve, hire employees, etc., in time to accept the five-year pilot program’s first applications this fall.
“This is a kind of miracle,” says American Water Works Association Deputy Executive Director Tom Curtis. “But that gives us hope that Congress will fund the full amount for projects in 2016."
That amount ($25 million) is expected to be leveraged 10:1 to provide $250 million in loans at U.S. Treasury rates.
As for other federal agencies that fund state and local public works projects:
FHWA funding is level with 2014, aviation took a hit, and rail and transit programs are up.
- Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants were cut.
- EPA funding has fallen 21% since 2010. Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds: $2.35 billion.
- The Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has $859 million for a new program authorized by the 2014 farm bill. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) “encourages” farmers to partner with wastewater utilities and municipal stormwater agencies on lowering nutrient pollution.
- Department of Homeland Security funding is frozen until the end of this month.