On Sept. 13, the White House announced the release of new technical assistance resources to help communities unlock opportunities from President Biden’s Investing in America plan. The focus of those resources is on providing access to funding made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
The resources include a new Technical Assistance Guide (TAG), a reference tool that provides comprehensive information about more than 100 federal assistance and capacity-building programs that have more than $1 billion available to provide technical support for efforts by communities to apply for secure and dispense federal funding. Among other programs, the updated guide includes numerous programs to help state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofits deliver infrastructure, clean energy, and climate mitigation and resilience projects.
The updated TAG is required reading and should be bookmarked by any non-federal governmental or private entity looking for federal assistance to navigate and access what the guide calls “programs, processes, and resources that provide targeted support to a community, region, organization, or other beneficiary to help them access and deploy federal funding to deliver results.”
The breadth of the technical assistance resources offered, as summarized in the TAG, is stunning:
Different technical assistance programs can help communities with planning, project development, project finance, grant writing, project management and compliance. There is a wide range of technical assistance available under these programs. Some communities will get what they need from webinars, websites or other educational information provided by Federal departments and agencies. Others will want and need more specific support and advice. Sometimes that can be provided directly by Federal subject matter experts and other times it can be provided by higher education institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit consultants under agreement with Federal departments and agencies. Technical assistance can focus on different parts of the project lifecycle. For instance, some of the initiatives listed in the guide are focused on helping communities apply for and access federal funding, while others are more focused on helping communities plan, design, and build projects after funding has been secured. Finally, some Federal technical assistance programs provide funding directly to communities to bring on technical assistance support.
Among the resources included in the TAG, the federal interagency Thriving Communities Network (TCN) is a central hub for making technical assistance and capacity-building available to urban, rural, and Tribal communities. The TCN has funded 17 Environmental Justice Technical Assistance Centers to deliver technical assistance to underserved and overburdened communities across the country.
Through the Department of Transportation (DOT), the TCN has formed four capacity-builder teams that are providing technical assistance to 64 under-resourced and disadvantaged communities to help them pursue transportation funding opportunities. On Sept 12, 2023, the DOT supplemented these efforts, issuing a Notice of Funding Opportunity and a call for letters of interest directly from communities seeking support for technical assistance to access BIL and IRA funding.
The TCN has also sponsored a Rural Partners Network that embeds federal staff in rural communities to provide technical assistance to facilitate preparation of successful grant applications and a number of programs, along with an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities that provides technical assistance to pursue funding from programs that support energy workers in coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities across the country.
In addition to the opportunities offered through the TCN, the TAG includes dozens of technical assistance programs offered by individual agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Interior, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Commerce, and Treasury.
Although not included in the TAG, the White House release also identifies opportunities available from 11 states and numerous philanthropic, labor and nonprofit organizations that are providing technical assistance for communities to secure and deploy infrastructure funding. One of these initiatives to watch is the formation of several pooled funds by major philanthropic organizations that have committed over $1.6 billion to support the implementation of the clean energy and climate provisions of the IRA, including “more direct access to critical technical assistance for underserved communities so that they can realize the full benefits of the law.”