Regions and the Aging of America

According to the Population Reference Bureau,[1] the number and characteristics of America’s older residents is shifting dramatically. Here are some basic facts:

  • The number of older Americans (those age 60 and older) will double from 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060;
  • Older Americans by mid-century will make up nearly one-quarter of the population;
  • The number of older Americans is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse;
  • Older adults are working longer. By 2022 27 percent of older men and 20 percent of older women are expected to continue to be working beyond the age of 65; and
  • The rural Midwest is becoming disproportionately older as young people move elsewhere.

And while many of the changes are positive – education levels are increasing; life expectancy is increasing; the gender gap in life expectancy is narrowing; and the poverty rate has dropped sharply – many of the changes are negative and are of concern:

  • Obesity rates are increasing substantially among older adults;
  • Economic disparities across different subgroups are becoming very dramatic with more than twice the number of older Americans of color living in poverty than non-Hispanic whites;
  • Divorce is on the upswing and more than 25 percent of older Americans live alone;
  • The need for nursing homes is increasing as more and more older Americans require long-term care;
  • Diseases associated with older adults – Alzheimer’s and dementia – are rising; and
  • Social Security and Medicare expenditures are rapidly increasing.

Federal, state, and local governments need to better plan for an aging America. Older Americans will be both more dependent and independent, healthier but in need of more long-term care, and capable of aging in place but desiring new kinds of multi-generational and livable communities. These needs are growing and will require greater resources each year. 

What is also becoming increasingly clear is that local solutions will need to become more regional in focus as planning for an older America becomes less about specific cities or counties and more about the regions in which older Americans live.

For this reason, regions throughout the United States have become active partners in the development of plans and the implementation of solutions that address an aging population. Many now function not only as the regional planning entity, but as the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and are direct service providers and grantors. While others may not be the AAA, they are very involved in the planning and development of programs that create more livable, diverse, and comfortable communities for older adults.

Here are just a few examples of regional councils that also serve as the AAA and the work they are doing to address the needs of their older residents.

  • The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) has developed programs specifically designed to address the needs of elder refugees and has implemented accountable health communities throughout the region. 
  • The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has developed a regional strategic plan entitled Live Beyond Expectations that is designed to address the changing demographics of the Atlanta region in a way that delivers more supports and provides greater impacts, with fewer resources.

Check back with Regions Lead in the upcoming months for additional discussions about older Americans and reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), the federal government’s principal funding stream for local services to older Americans.


The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: An Update

On March 6th, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio introduced the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1497), which would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program.

The following day, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Water Subcommittee discussed CWSRF reauthorization in a hearing titled “The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: How Federal Infrastructure Investment Can Help Communities Modernize Water Infrastructure and Address Affordability Challenges.”

Recent actions and statements by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle indicate an interest in both moving an infrastructure package forward and including water infrastructure in that package. This reopening of discussion on CWSRF reauthorization prompts a review of the current state of the CWSRF and the potential opportunities and challenges presented by reauthorization.

CWSRF Background

The CWSRF dates to 1987 when Congress amended the Clean Water Act (CWA) creating a capitalization grant program to finance infrastructure for sewage treatment and water quality improvement. Prior to 1987, Congress funded public wastewater infrastructure using a direct grant program that would cover 55% and 75% of construction costs for qualifying public projects.

The CWSRF program was developed with the intention of transitioning to a system in which state and local governments would cover 100% of wastewater infrastructure financing. Congress set the target date of this transition as fiscal year (FY) 1995 – a date coinciding with the expiration of the CWA’s original authorizations in 1994 – and authorized the program for $18 billion to be distributed between fiscal years 1987 to 1995.

Unresolved funding needs and administrative challenges prevented the realization of a complete transition to state and local funding as the program reached the end of its authorization in FY 1995. While the CWSRF has not been reauthorized since then, Congress has continued appropriating funds for the program. Annual appropriations amounts through FY 2018 can be seen in the table below.

Table 1: Clean Water Appropriations FY 1987 – FY 2019

Source: CRS Funding for EPA Water Infrastructure: A Fact Sheet

How Does the CWSRF Work?

All 50 states as well as Puerto Rico currently participate in the CWSRF program. The EPA provides capitalization grants that serve as seed funding the each state’s revolving fund. States then use their funds to issue loans, buy local debt, and issue guarantees.

The primary benefit of CWSRF loans is the below-market interest rates that they provide to states. In 2017, the average interest rate of CWSRF loans was 1.4%, significantly lower than the market rate of 3.5%.

More information on the program with details on loan issuance and leveraging can be found in the EPA’s SRF Fund Management Handbook.

Repayments and interest earned from outstanding loans return to the states revolving funds and are then used to develop new loans. States are also able to increase financing capacity by leveraging their funds and issuing fund-backed bonds. The figure below shows how leveraging has increased the impact of federal dollars provided to the program.

Figure 1: Leveraging of Federal Capitalization Grants

Source: EPA CWSRF 2017 Annual Report

Proposed Reauthorization Legislation

The bill introduced on March 6th, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1497), would authorize $23.5 billion in wastewater infrastructure investment over the next five years, with $20 billion dedicated to capitalization of the CWSRF. Under this authorization, Congress would be able to appropriate up to $4 billion per year for the program. This would be more than double recent CWSRF appropriations, which totaled $1.39 billion in FY 2017 and $1.64 billion in FY 2018.

CWSRF reauthorization legislation has been introduced before, but has never passed. The most recent effort was made during the 115th Congress with the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2017 (H.R. 2510). Compared to previous years, H.R. 1497 has an increased chance of passage as both Congress and the Administration have identified infrastructure as a priority for the 116th Congress and indicated an interest in developing bipartisan legislation on the subject.

Funding Challenges for the CWSRF

Funding the CWSRF program presents a significant challenge for lawmakers. While other infrastructure domains like surface transportation benefit from user-driven revenue streams like the federal gas tax, an equivalent has not yet been identified for water infrastructure.

One recently proposed bill would increase the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 24.5%, sending $35 billion a year to a water trust fund that would be used to fund the CWSRF. Another proposal, introduced during the 115th Congress, would create a water trust fund by allowing businesses that produce bottled products to voluntarily pay a $0.03 per unit fee in exchange for the right to place a label on their products indicating their commitment to clean water resources protection.

Despite consensus that water infrastructure investment needs to be increased, all reauthorization proposals that require increased spending of general funds are likely to cause disagreement among lawmakers. Consequently, the identification of other sources of revenue would increase the chance of successful passage of a CWSRF reauthorization.

Reauthorization Potential in 2019

There are indications that CWSRF reauthorization legislation may gain traction as a part of the broad effort to develop infrastructure legislation during the 116th Congress. Recent congressional hearings and comments by House leadership and the Administration show that support exists on both sides of the aisle for moving infrastructure legislation forward and funding water projects.

Uncertainty remains, however, and this uncertainty is encapsulated well by the Administration’s recently released FY 2020 budget which cuts the CWSRF program budget by $600 million, while also providing a $200 billion placeholder for “additional infrastructure investments” that would likely include water infrastructure investment.

This Month in Photos: February 2019

This Month in Photos: February 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!  February 2019 (PDF)

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation. 

We feature regional council meetings, board retreats, meetings with state or federal elected officials, the opening of new facilities, special programs, awards, and anything else you view as important or fun to share with your colleagues.

If you would like your region included in Regional Councils: This Month in Photos, please send your photos and a brief description to Neil Bomberg at

Local Governments Lead the Way on Electric Vehicle Adoption

Electric vehicle sales (EVs) continue to grow in the U.S. market, with total units sold surpassing 1 million in October 2018. EVs offer an economically viable — and in many cases superior — alternative to conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs). In the long run, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are cheaper to own and operate because they deliver price stability, reduce fuel costs, and require less maintenance and service than ICEs.

In 2018, automakers sold more than 362,000 EVs in the United States, an 81 percent increase over 2017 sales — and the best year yet in terms of total U.S. EV sales volume. There are now more than 16 BEV models and 29 PHEV models available in the U.S., an increase from 15 BEV and 24 PHEV models available in 2017. EV sales can be expected to rise further as analysts project dropping battery costs to allow EVs to run further on a single charge and at a lower cost.

Cities, counties, and regions are recognizing that every EV offers an opportunity to improve air quality, while also reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as half, compared to ICE counterparts. Such reductions are why Climate Mayors, a network of more than 400 U.S. mayors committed to taking meaningful action on climate change, has focused on how cities can collectively demonstrate strong EV demand by transitioning city vehicle fleets to EVs. Climate Mayors has partnered with the Electrification Coalition (EC), a national non-profit organization working to accelerate EV adoption, to launch the Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative (Collaborative), a first-of-its-kind, one-stop shop that provides cities and other public agencies with a critical platform to transition their fleets to electric.

Background & Overview of the Climate Mayors Collaborative

In 2017, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led the release of an EV-focused Request for Information (RFI) for thirty U.S. cities to demonstrate demand for more than 114,000 EVs, including trucks and related equipment. Since then, the Climate Mayors effort has evolved into a commitment by more than 400 U.S. mayors representing 70 million U.S. residents in 47 states who have pledged to adopt, honor, and uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

To address these challenges, Climate Mayors, the EC, and Sourcewell, a procurement partner, launched the Collaborative in September 2018. The Collaborative is a one-stop platform for public fleets to make cost-effective EV procurement decisions, bring nationwide cost parity to available EV models, and help cities and other public agencies capture the federal EV tax credit through an innovative municipal capital-leasing purchase model. The Collaborative serves as a catalyst for accelerating the transition of public fleets to EVs, cutting emissions, reducing U.S. dependence on oil, and saving taxpayer dollars. This transition is achieved through the Collaborative by providing cities with tools and resources to facilitate the procurement of EVs and EV-charging infrastructure to support electrified fleets. It also provides equity in vehicle availability to cities across the U.S.

By providing technical expertise as the Collaborative’s implementation partner, the EC also centralizes data and best practices on how to buy or lease EVs, and provides a suite of resources addressing EV-charging infrastructure.

How Cities, Counties, & Regions Can Make an Impact

The Collaborative arose from extensive efforts of the National Association of Regional Councils’ (NARC) Fleets for the Future grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Partnerships and lessons learned from that effort were rolled into the Collaborative to further city and county efforts in transitioning to alternative transportation fuels – specifically to EVs. Fleets for the Future first tested cooperative procurement for vehicles and provided education through webinars, best practices, and presentations to public fleets.

So far, more than 40 cities and counties have committed to the Collaborative to transition almost 1,000 light-duty vehicles to EVs. The City of Los Angeles, an early leader in municipal fleet EV deployment, is transitioning 137 city vehicles to PHEVs through the Collaborative; the City of Austin is integrating 71 EVs into its municipal fleet through the Collaborative; and smaller cities, such as Chula Vista, CA, and Rochester, NY, are taking advantage of EV opportunities as well. These combined fleet electrification strategies promise to transform the U.S. EV market in part by demonstrating local leadership.

Regional councils are the key conveners of cities and counties, and as leaders in transportation planning, they can continue to facilitate opportunities for fleet electrification. The Collaborative can help regional council members challenged by greenhouse-gas emissions goals and the EV procurement process. Regional councils can be engaged to help solve funding issues by exploring pilot programs addressing user fees and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) taxes to improve infrastructure. Regions can also help lead the charge on reducing EV “range anxiety” by planning for EV charging stations and alternative fuel vehicle corridors.

Learn More

By establishing fleet-electrification commitments through the Climate Mayors EV Purchasing Collaborative, cities and counties encourage other local governments to join the effort. Creating a pathway for cities and counties of all sizes to smoothly and cost-effectively electrify fleets will help drive U.S. EV market growth, while also achieving real progress toward the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

To learn more about the Collaborative, please visit or reach out to NARC to connect with Collaborative project staff.

Hearing Analysis: Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs

Hearing Analysis: Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs

On March 12th, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit convened to discuss prioritizing the reauthorization of highway and transit programs before they expire next year. Regions and local communities require continued federal infrastructure investment to provide regional connectivity and modern mobility through efficient multi-modal systems. For detailed notes, see NARC’s analysis from the hearing.

House Ways and Means Hearing: Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure and The Need for Immediate Action

House Ways and Means Hearing: Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure and The Need for Immediate Action

Taking a vital step toward a robust transportation package this Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday held a hearing to discuss the need for more money to maintain and improve the nation’s infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund needs immediate cash flow before it runs to zero in 2021. In addition, roads, bridges and highways in poor conditions cost individuals and businesses in measurable financial ways. At the hearing, funding models for investment were discussed in depth as members debated the use of a gas tax, VMT-based fee, and public-private partnerships as tools for creating revenue. The rural-urban divide was also discussed throughout. There were also conversations about creating stronger broadband infrastructure, water systems, disaster resilient communities and affordable housing while also addressing the effects of climate change. For detailed notes, see NARC’s analysis from the hearing.

Appropriations FY 2019 Features Key Wins for Regions

After months of negotiations and a historic 35-day partial government shutdown, the federal government has finally wrapped up work on the fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations process.

President Trump recently signed into law a $333 billion, seven-bill appropriations package that funded the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation. The package follows five appropriations passed in September 2018 that totaled $991 billion, providing funding for the legislative branch and the Departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

Our initial analysis of the FY 2019 appropriations bills signals positive news for regions! The bills include level funding or additional appropriations for many of the priorities we have advocated for over the past year.

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BUILD Grants: The BUILD program was funded at $900 million, a decrease of $600 million from FY 2018 but still well above previous years funding (which ranged from $500 to $600 million). One major change is that half of that amount must go to projects in rural areas. Up to $15 million can be awarded in planning grants (though no such awards were made last year). Up to twenty percent of the funds can be used to pay for subsidy and administrative costs of Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) or Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) credit assistance.

STBGP: Of $3.5 billion in supplemental highway funding from the general fund, about $2.7 billion will be apportioned as Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) funding (up from just under $2.0 billion last year).

CIG Program: The Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program received $2.6 billion, a decrease of $92.3 million. This includes $1.4 billion for “New Starts,” $530 million for “Core Capacity,” and $527 million for “Small Starts.”

Transit: Transit formula grants through the Highway Trust Fund increase by $206 million compared to last year, but supplemental funding for the Transit Infrastructure Grants Program was reduced by $134 million (to $700 million).

Rail: The Federal Railroad Administration received $2.9 billion. Amtrak received level funding at $1.9 billion, with $650 million allocated for capital projects along the Northeast Corridor. The bill also includes funding for State of Good Repair grants ($400 million) and consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvement grants ($255 million).

FAA: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was funded at $17.5 billion – $549 million below the FY 2018 enacted level and $1.3 billion above the president’s request. Airport Improvement Program grants received an additional $500 million this year to make critical airport infrastructure investments and Essential Air Service (EAS) received an increase of more than $40 million.

Drones: The package provided $56 million for drone integration and $24 million for drone research. It also directed the FAA to expand the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program without incurring additional costs.

Aging Programs

ACL: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) was funded at $2.2 billion, a $25 million increase from fiscal year 2018.

Senior Workforce: The Senior Community Service Employment Program remains level at $400 million, rejecting the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the program.

OAA, Title III: The Older Americans Act (OAA) Title III programs were either level funded or saw small increases:

  • Level funding for OAA Title III B Home and Community-Based Supportive Services
  • $10 million increase for Title III C Nutrition Services
  • Level funding for Title III D Preventative Health
  • $600,000 increase for Title III E Family Caregivers Support

Census Bureau

Boost to Census Funding: The Census Bureau is funded at $3.8 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion from fiscal year 2018. With about $1 billion in carry-over funding from the previous fiscal year, it’s a big step to ramp up activities related to the 2020 census.

Community and Economic Development

CDBG and HOME: The Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) received level funding at $3.3 billion. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program was funded at $1.250 billion, a decrease of $112 million. The Trump administration proposed to eliminate funding for both programs in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

SSBG & CSBG: The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) received level funding at $1.7 billion. The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) received a $10 million increase. The Trump Administration recommended that both programs be zeroed out in their FY 2019 budget request.

State Workforce Formula Grants: Title I – State Formula Grants of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) received level funding at $2.8 billion. The breakdown of each grant category is:

  • $845 million for WIOA Adult activities
  • $903 million for WIOA Youth activities
  • $1.04 million for WIOA Dislocated Worker activities

EDA: The Economic Development Administration (EDA) received a $2.5 million increase. This allocation ignores the Trump administration’s recommendation to eliminate funding for the agency.

Homeless Assistance Grants: The Homeless Assistance Grants were funded at $2.64 billion, a $12.3 million increase from last year. $80 million was also allocated by the appropriations package to programs addressing youth homelessness.

Housing Choice Vouchers: Housing Choice Vouchers received level funding at $22.6 billion.

Energy & Environment

Brownfields Program: The Brownfields Project Grant Program received a $7 million increase in FY 2019 for a total of $87 million.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Program is funded at $2.38 billion, an increase of $57 million from the last fiscal year and $1.68 billion above the president’s request.

LIHEAP: The package included a $50 million increase for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for a total of $3.69 billion. The Trump administration has recommended zeroing out funding for this program in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

FEMA/Disaster Response and Recovery

FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) received $16.6 billion in net discretionary funding, an increase of $4.2 billion over last year. Also included in the package:

  • $12 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund to help states and communities respond to and recover from major domestic disasters and emergencies. This is an increase of over $4.6 billion from last year.
  • $3.1 billion for FEMA emergency grants, training, and other federal assistance (a $199.7 million decrease).
  • $250 million from the Disaster Relief Fund for the “National Public Infrastructure Predisaster Mitigation Fund, which was established by last year’s FAA reauthorization (Public Law 115-254).

Flood Insurance and Mapping: The Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program received $262.5 million, the same amount as last fiscal year. The National Flood Insurance Fund, which supports the National Flood Insurance Program, received $202 million (a decrease of $1 million).

Rural Development

Rural Development: Rural development programs received $3.01 billion, totaling $10.8 million more than the previous fiscal year and $1.21 billion more than the president’s request.

Rural Housing and Rental Assistance Programs: $1 billion in single family housing direct loans and $230 million in multi-family housing guarantees were provided. Rural Housing Assistance Grants received $45 million ($15 million for rural housing preservation and $30 million for very low-income housing repair). Congress provided $1.3 billion for the Rental Assistance Program, which is expected to fund all expiring FY 2018 contracts.  

Rural Community Facilities Program: This program received level funding at $2.8 billion for direct loans to help fund rural hospitals, schools, and health clinics.

New Broadband Loan and Grant Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service received an additional $550 million for the Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, a new broadband loan and grant pilot program that was created in the FY 2018 omnibus.

Substance Abuse Crisis

Substance Abuse Crisis Relief: Congress provided enhanced support for treatment and prevention efforts across the U.S. tackling the substance abuse crisis. This included:

  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • $1.5 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response Grants
  • $120 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program
  • $20 million for Regional Partnership Grants to improve the coordination of services for children and families affected by substance use disorders
  • Within the total provided for Substance Abuse Treatment Programs of Regional and National Significance in the conference exploratory statement, the conferees included $12 million for grants to prevent prescription drug/opioid overdose, $36 million for first responder training, and $89 million for the Medication-Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction Program
  • Department of Justice
    • $77 million for drug courts
    • $22 million for veterans’ treatment courts
    • $30 million for prescription drug monitoring programs
    • $157 million for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program

Distance Learning & Telemedicine: $16 million was appropriated for Rural Development Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants to help rural communities combat the crisis.

Water Infrastructure, Drinking Water, & Waste Disposal

Water State Revolving Funds: The Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund programs were level funded, receiving $1.69 billion and $1.16 billion, respectively.

WIFIA Grants: The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Grants program received a $5 million increase from FY 2018, totaling $68 million.

WRDA Grants: Congress provided $65 million in grants authorized by the 2016 Water Resources Development Act to improve drinking water in small, disadvantaged communities; schools and child care centers; and areas with lead in their drinking water.

Water and Waste Disposal Programs: The Rural Utilities Service Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account saw a mixed bag of funding amounts in FY 2019:

  • $1.4 billion for water and waste direct loans ($200 million increase)
  • $400 million for water and waste disposal grants (level funding)
  • $30 million for water and waste technical assistance grants ($10 million decrease)