FCC Releases New National Broadband Map – Understanding the Data Challenge Process 

On November 18, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the first draft of its new National Broadband Map, a comprehensive, location-by-location view of high-speed Internet availability across the nation. The map is a more detailed and precise reflection of the availability of fixed and mobile broadband services across the country. 

The new map can be accessed here. 

While the FCC will not implement a deadline for data challenges, NARC strongly encourages communities to make submissions by January 13, the date by which NTIA will use the FCC map to determine each state’s allocation of BEAD dollars. 

Unlike its previous census block-based maps, this updated map is built on a location-based model developed through the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection process. The map will be continuously updated with each filing period’s set of data, with the next cycle expected to span from December 31-March 1. Each filing window will then take place six months thereafter. 

The new National Broadband Map and its future iterations are expected to be instrumental in determining the flow of funds for billions of dollars for broadband deployment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). 

This includes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which will provide over $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all 50 states and Washington D.C. NTIA has required states to conduct local coordination in order to receive these funds, and NARC encourages Regional Councils, Councils of Governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and other regional organizations to contact and coordinate with their state broadband office to begin this process. 

Submission of Bulk Challenges

Regional Councils, COGs, and MPOs are encouraged to review and validate the availability data presented on the new National Broadband Map to determine whether to submit a challenge. If your organization or local districts determine that a challenge is needed, the FCC has provided steps to follow here. 

There is no deadline for data challenges, but submissions after January 13 will not be reflected in state allocations. 

Challenges to an individual location may include incorrect information on a particular location such as address or unit count, a location’s geographic coordinates, a location’s broadband serviceability is incorrectly identified, or a location that meets the definition of a BSL is missing from the Fabric. Consumers will be able to engage in this individual location challenge process to submit challenges for their own residences or small businesses. 

Understanding the Challenge Submission Process

Additionally, a walkthrough of the challenge process from a submitting entity’s perspective is available to watch here. Some key steps are included below.

  • Access the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric dataset following these steps. Local governments must follow the steps provided in the link which include logging into the Broadband Data Center system and executing a limited end-user license agreement for the Fabric dataset. These licensing requests may take time to be processed so expect a processing window when submitting the access request. Delivery of credentials may take up to two weeks from the time your organization information is submitted. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the FCC’s definition of a “broadband serviceable location,” which will not necessarily include all structures at a particular location or parcel. More information can be found in the Bulk Fabric Challenge Specs Public Notice. 
  • Develop a strategy for requiring and validating the Fabric data in your geographic area. 
  • Align your data with the specifications set forth in the Data Specifications for Bulk Fabric Challenge Data document. Some of these specifications include, among other things, requirements to identify the name and contact information of the submitting entity, the Fabric location subject to challenge, the category of the challenge for each location, and evidence supporting the challenge. Further specifications require the challenge data file to include records for each location in a Comma Separated Value (CSV) format, all fields must be included in the file upload, and all values must conform to the descriptions, codes, or formats identified for each field in the Data Specifications document.  
  • Certify that the information you are submitting is true and correct (to the best of your actual knowledge, information, and belief) for each location that is part of the bulk challenge. 
  • Submit your challenge! 

Additional Resources

NARC will continue to monitor FCC updates and additional information will be provided soon. 

It’s NARC Membership Week – Thanks for Being a NARC Member!

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) annual Membership Week will begin November 14 through November 18.  

This week will be all about you, our members, because without your support and leadership, NARC would not be able to do the work we do: bringing regional councils across the country together and advocating for regional solutions in Washington.

We will be highlighting some of the key benefits that come along with being a part of our organization. We want to make sure you are utilizing all the advantages that come along with being a NARC member.

Please stay tuned for updates as we get closer to Membership Week. 

On behalf of the entire NARC staff, Happy Membership Week! We look forward to celebrating with you and hope to see many of your at our upcoming National Conference of Regions the week of January 22nd. 

UPDATED – 2023 Appropriations Blog Series: Week of July 25

The House of Representatives is aiming to pass all 12 appropriations bills before it begins its month long recess on August 1.  The first of two “minibuses” was passed on Wednesday, July 20, and the second is expected to be passed later this week. 

The first minibus includes funding for the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Interior Departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The second minibus, scheduled to be approved this week, includes funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security, as well as the Department of Defense. 

If adopted into law, the minibuses would provide $91 billion for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, $86 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, $38 billion for the Department of Justice, $12 billion for the Department of Commerce, and $11 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as $762 billion in discretionary defense budget authority, and $224 billion to fund the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and Education.

It is important to note that funding levels for each department are likely to change over the next several months once the Senate develops its own appropriation bills and both chambers reach a bipartisan and bicameral deal.  Furthermore, despite the speed with which the House has moved its appropriations bills, Senate negotiators have yet to publicly roll out any of their dozen annual spending bills where leaders are struggling to strike a larger bipartisan deal on how to fund the government.

Over the next weeks and months, NARC will update this blog as part of an effort to keep you informed about funding levels for programs of importance to cities, counties, and regions.

Funding for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development

The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriation bill would provide $91 billion in discretionary funds, an increase of $10 billion[1] or 12 percent, above fiscal year 2022. This includes an increase of $9 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and $837 million for the Department of Transportation (DOT).  Moreover, the bill would provide $169  billion in total budgetary resources, an increase of $12  billion above FY 2022.

While the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program was level funded many of the programs that are receiving increases are important to cities, counties, and regions.  They deal with highways and transit, housing, rail, and aviation.  Funds have been included to upgrade airports; upgrade and maintain public, supported, and affordable housing; fund mass transit programs including Amtrak; and fund national infrastructure investments.  Underlying the House THUD appropriation is a focus on equity throughout federally-supported housing and transportation programs.

Of course, cities, counties, and regions of various sizes and responsibilities will benefit differently from these increases, should they become law, but the underlying message from the Appropriations Committee is that there remains substantial support within Congress for the full range of transportation and housing programs.

As THUD Subcommittee chair David E. Price (D-NC-04) said, “This year’s THUD bill builds on the successes of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).” Appropriations Committee chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) added that the investments being made through the THUD appropriations bill “are essential pathways to the American Dream and will help grow opportunity for the middle class through homeownership and … affordable housing.”

According to the Appropriations Committee, the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development funding bill would:

  • Create and sustain tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs.
  • Expand programs designed to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure with significant investments in airports, highways, transit, passenger rail, and port systems.
  • Expand rental assistance for families experiencing or at risk of homelessness and increase the number of senior housing units.
  • Promote safe transportation and housing by developing a skilled and growing workforce that would conduct inspections, mitigate hazards, seek solutions for improving the safety of housing.
  • Fund efforts to reduce emissions, increase resiliency, and address historical inequities in transportation and housing programs; and
  • Fund House Members’ earmarks.

Funding for DOT would specifically include:

  • $775 million for RAISE, TIGER, and BUILD programs including $30 million that would be targeted to areas of persistent poverty.
  • $18.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including funding for aviation safety and airport improvements.
  • $61.3 billion for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  • $2 billion for motor carrier and highway traffic safety programs.
  • $3.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, including $2.3 billion for Amtrak; and
  • $17.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration and $1 billion for the Maritime Administration.

Funding for HUD would include:

  • $11.8 billion for community planning and development including $3.3 billion for CDBG.
  • $31 billion for tenant-based rental assistance including $1.1 billion to expand housing assistance to 140,000 more households and $55 million for housing supports for homeless veterans.
  • $8.7 billion for public housing.
  • $600 million for housing for persons with HIV/AIDS.
  • $450 million for Choice Neighborhoods initiatives; and
  • $415 million for lead hazard control especially in Section 8 housing voucher units.

[1] Funding levels have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

Defense Department Funding

The Defense Department appropriations bill would authorize $840.2 billion in national defense spending. The sprawling Pentagon funding package would authorize funds for the Defense Department and funds for national security programs within the Department of Energy. 

While not obviously important to regions, there are many like Alamo Area Council of Governments and the North Central Texas Council of Governments, that have very strong relationships with their local military bases and those relationships will benefit from much of the House-proposed Defense Department funding. 

If adopted by the House the bill would provide:

  • $2.1 billion for family housing projects both on and off base.
  • $510 million for housing for single service members.
  • $274 million for child development centers.
  • $1 billion for construction or renovation of Guard and Reserve facilities, something that has the potential of impacting a significant number of states and regions.
  • $1.3 billion for Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan projects
  • $653 million for energy resilience programs

$575 million for ongoing Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination cleanup.[1]

[1] Source:  Association of Defense Communities, Washington, DC 

Commerce Department Funding

The Department of Commerce appropriations bill provides funding for, among other agencies, the Census Bureau, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the bill would help create “good paying American jobs with investments in economic development in distressed communities and fund.”  It would also address the “climate crisis with strong funding for climate resilience and research at various agencies within the Commerce Department.”

Subcommittee chair Matt Cartwright (D-PA) said that the Commerce appropriations bill would “invest in American manufacturing, economic development and infrastructure improvements to strengthen our economy and improve the lives of our nation’s working people,” 

Of the greatest importance to regions is funding for EDA.  If the House prevails, EDA’s fiscal year 2023 funding level would be $510 million, an increase of $137 million over last year; the Census Bureau would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $152 billion over last year; MBDA would receive $70 million, $15 million more than last year; and NOAA would receive nearly $7 billion, nearly $1 billion more than last year. 

Next Week: More analysis and an overview of funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. 

NARC Presents the 2022 Regional Leadership and Achievement Awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Columbus, OH (June 14, 2022) – The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) presented its 2022 Achievement and Leadership Awards today during an awards ceremony held at the NARC 56th Annual Conference & Exhibition.  

“I am so pleased and so proud as President of NARC to be able to celebrate these achievements in regional cooperation, excellence, and leadership,” said NARC President Bob Cannon, Supervisor of Clinton Township, Michigan and former chair of Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. “What greater honor is there than to be able to recognize the valuable contributions of my colleagues.”  

Eleven projects received 2022 Achievement Awards and four regional leaders received 2022 Leadership Awards. More information about this year’s recipients can be found below.  

ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

Eastgate Regional Council of Governments | Eastgate Regional Broadband Feasibility Study 

In June of 2021, the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments (Eastgate) accepted the completed Regional Broadband Feasibility Study that would serve as the roadmap towards addressing the issues that plague high-speed connectivity in the region while also promoting the modernization of broadband infrastructure to ensure competitiveness in a fast-changing and ever-evolving global landscape. 

East Texas Council of Governments | Rural, Set, Go! Workforce Strategy Public Forum Series 

Rural, Set, Go! is an intentional strategy to engage community leaders, business leaders, and community members in candid conversations about the factors that influence their local workforce and economic development needs, particularly in-demand skills as identified by the community employers.   

Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission | In Recognition of the Miami Valley Disaster Recovery Leadership 

Following a series of disastrous storms in 2019 the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) MVRPC was asked and agreed to become the designated leader of the Long-Term Community Disaster Recovery Network, helping the impacted counties, cities, townships and villages across the region create a plan for recovery and resiliency.  

Region 1 Planning Council | R1 Land Bank 

The R1 Land Bank exists to effectively aggregate parcels of land for future sale or development, while fostering municipal collaboration and supporting community goals. Hundreds of legally abandoned sit at length, often years, vacant and deteriorating. Through the land bank, vacant properties may be acquired and returned to market at a higher value putting an end to the vicious cycle of declining equalized assessed valuations and abandoned properties in communities.      

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission with Lehigh County, Pennsylvania | Lehigh Valley Jobs & Housing Support Initiative 

Immediately following closures from the COVID-19 Pandemic Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) alongside Lehigh County, went to work to quantify the vulnerabilities as a first step in beginning to address what quickly became a jobs and housing crisis. Within weeks on the shutdowns, the mayors of the region’s three cities, Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton joined the roundtable with Lehigh County and LVPC to start needed problem-solving.  

Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization | Miami-Dade TPO SMART STEP Program 

The Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Urban Mobility Task Force & Non-Urban Core Task Force were created to focus on addressing bicycle and pedestrian mobility challenges in Miami-Dade County. As a result, the SMART STEP (Street Transportation Enhancements Program) was created to facilitate interagency coordination, innovation, and accelerated implementation of pedestrian and bicycle improvement projects that increase connectivity and enhance safety.    

Puget Sound Regional Council | PSRC’s Equity Program 

PSRC’s goal is to advance racial equity to ensure that the region’s vision for a prosperous and healthy future is possible for all people in the region. Recognizing that this is not available to everyone, PSRC set out to change this with its new Equity Program. PSRC’s Equity Program offers several innovations as they are taking an entirely new approach to equity in their work. 

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments | Southeast Michigan Electric Vehicle (EV) Resource Kit and Planning Hub    

 The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) developed the Southeast Michigan EV Resource Kit and Planning Hub as a one-stop destination which provides local communities and stakeholders with quick access to key data and background information on EVs and EV infrastructure; the current status of infrastructure and deployment; community zoning and planning ordinances; funding opportunities; and local case studies and best practices. The primary goal of this resource is to assist stakeholders and communities across the region and state to most effectively prepare for and support the adoption of EVs as well as in the deployment of EV charging infrastructure.   

Alamo Area Council of Governments | Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape 

The Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape (CBSL) was designated as the first Sentinel Landscape in Texas, and one of only 10 in the nation. Sentinel Landscapes are areas in which natural and working lands are well suited to protect defense facilities from land use that is incompatible with the military’s mission.  The purpose of the program is to focus and leverage federal resources on a landscape-scale natural resource conservation effort through a regional consortium of state and local governments, nonprofit conservation organizations, military installations, and regional Federal technical assistance offices. 

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) SCAG Housing Policy Leadership Academy 

The SCAG Housing Policy Leadership Academy (HPLA) offers a 10-session online training for emerging and established community leaders who want to better understand how to advance policy solutions to increase the supply and availability of affordable housing. The program is open to elected officials, advocates, and community stakeholders in moving forward a pro-housing development agenda and empower leaders to make informed decisions. SCAG had an overwhelming response to the program. 

Houston-Galveston Area Council | H-GAC Small Business Financial Assistance – Pandemic & Beyond   

In 2020, as businesses struggled to remain afloat due to mandated closures, H-GAC worked to find solutions. Endeavoring to create new, nimble and responsive loan programs to meet small business needs, H-GAC leveraged its resources, connections, special ability to tap into various funding sources, and its existing framework. The pandemic spurred immediate action from the third largest county in the nation, Harris County, which would help pave the way for the creation of various loan programs in the region. 

LEADERSHIP AWARDS 

2022 WALTER SCHEIBER LEADERSHIP AWARD  

Barry Seymour, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission 

Barry Seymour has served since 2006 as Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), one of the nation’s largest and most respected Metropolitan Planning Organizations.  In his time at DVRPC, Mr. Seymour instituted the first municipal grant program for revitalization of urban neighborhoods and older suburban communities, created a growth management planning program for suburban communities, spearheaded the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Smart Transportation initiative, oversaw a regional food system plan, and is now directing efforts to improve energy efficiency and address climate change in the region. He is a recipient of the 2008 Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.   

2022 TOM BRADLEY LEADERSHIP AWARD 

The Honorable Tom Johnson, Mayor of Village of Somerset, Ohio 

Tom Johnson, Mayor of the Village of Somerset, is one of Appalachian Ohio’s leading public servants and a champion of community-led economic development. Mayor Johnson understands the region’s assets—its natural environment, its unique historic downtowns, and its entrepreneurial spirit. He also understands the importance of both working top-down and bottom-up and the power of working collaboratively to address the challenges and disparities faced by small communities like those in Appalachian Ohio.   

The Honorable Rap Hankins, Council member, City of Trotwood 

Mr. Rap Hankins is a well-known, well-respected leader at the local, regional, state and national levels.  Mr. Hankins served as an elected Councilmember for the City of Trotwood, a Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) member community, for more than 16 years. Mr. Rap Hankins is a champion for regionalism in his role as a leader for multi-county racial equity, disaster recovery and environmental efforts. These are three separate efforts that are combined because of who Rap is –a leader, community activist, and a drum major for change in the Miami Valley.  In total, he has dedicated more than 20 years toward leadership of regional initiatives led by or affiliated with MVRPC.  There is no end in sight because Rap feels reenergized and feels he is accomplishing far more now as an unelected official toward the regional and state ideals that he has long championed.  

2022 PRESIDENT’S AWARD  

Lyle Wray, Executive Director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments

For over 40 years, he has been the model of an innovative public servant.  As Executive Director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, his leadership made an indelible and positive impact on the local, regional, state and bi-state regional levels that will reverberate for many years.  Lyle’s work in Connecticut has been transformational for the region. With Lyle’s leadership, collaboration, and knowledge, we’ve seen positive changes in the “land of steady habits”. The region and the state are better for his contributions. 

More information about NARC awards, conferences, and leadership contact Melissa Lowe, Melissa.Lowe@narc.org, or check out our website at www.NARC.org. 

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About the National Association of Regional Councils  

NARC serves as a national voice for regions by advocating for regional cooperation as the most effective way to address a variety of community planning and development opportunities and issues. NARC’s member organizations are composed of multiple local governments that work together to serve American communities – large and small, urban and rural. 

NARC Celebrating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) One Year Anniversary

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the historic investment in the nation from passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Throughout the week the White House has been celebrating the one-year anniversary by highlighting achievements made possible by the passage of the bill relevant information, fact sheets, and toolkits for communities. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package was designed to facilitate the United States’ recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA included $350 billion in aid to states, cities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. 

ARPA authorized the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, including $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid to every county, parish and borough in America. It represents a strong federal-state-local partnership and an investment in localities on the front-line keeping communities healthy, safe and vibrant.  

Funding allocated under the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program is subject to the requirements specified in U.S. Department of the Treasury’s May 17, 2021 interim final rule, which became effective on that date and detailed whether a program, project or service was an eligible use. Treasury accepted public comments on the interim final rule through July 16, 2021 and after reviewing some 1,000 submitted comments adopted the final rule in early January 2022.  

On January 6, 2022 Treasury issued the Final Rule for SLFRF program adding clarifications and additional guidance not available under the interim rule. For an in-depth overview of the Final Rule check out the National Association of Counties (NACo) analysis.  

To date, Treasury has distributed more than $245 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments as a part of the SLFRF program, accounting for over 99% of funds eligible to be disbursed in 2021. Recipients of funds were encouraged to begin using funds under the interim final rule, which was released in May 2021 as the final rule does not take until April 1, 2022.   

KEEPING TRACK OF ARPA DOLLARS INVESTED

An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that state governments have appropriated nearly 70% of their available funds as of November 2021. Their review of these spending decisions shows that many states are using the funds constructively: to offset declines in their revenue collections; to address the health, economic, and fiscal impacts of the pandemic and contribute to the economic recovery; and to start new long-term investments to address racial and economic inequities. 

In addition to this analysis of broad state allocated ARPA spending, a partnership between Brookings Metro, the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the National League of Cities (NLC), aimed at highlighting innovative, evidence-based, well-targeted uses of SLFRF ARPA funds. They created the Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker. An online resource that compiles information from local governments to offer a detailed picture of how large cities and counties (with populations of at least 250,000) are deploying funding.  

This tool adds to other important efforts to understand local ARPA implementation, including Results for America’s ARP Data and Evidence Dashboard, and the Treasury Department’s analysis of highlights from initial SLFRF reports. 

Communities have until 2024 to fully plan for and commit their funds, and until 2026 to spend them. Local governments’ initial SLFRF expenditure reports contain useful roadmaps on where they are heading with ARPA funds; large cities and counties (those with populations of at least 250,000) have also delivered the first in a series of annual plans that outline their intended and actual uses of SLFRF dollars.  

Collectively, these reports and tools detail thousands of projects across dozens of eligible expenditure categories and form the data behind the Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker. 

NARC WANTS TO HEAR FROM REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) will be collecting information and tracking ARPA spending from regional councils over the next few months. If you have questions or information to share on how you are spending and planning for ARPA dollars please contact Jessica Routzahn at jessica@narc.org. 

Additional Resources:  

COVID-19 Communications Toolkit for Counties 
Utilize NACo’s COVID-19 communications toolkit, including top-level messaging, outreach ideas and templates to share how your county is investing ARPA Fiscal Recovery Funds. 

Explore NACo’s ARPA Fiscal Recovery Fund Resources 

Visit NACo’s ARPA Fiscal Recovery Fund Resource Hub to find tools to share your story, explore county best practices, access analysis and more. 

White House ARPA Anniversary Toolkit 

Join the White House and states, cities, counties, territories to amplify the successful, historic, and lasting impact of the American Rescue Plan in social media and your local press! 

 

NARC Legislative Update And Analysis: U.S. House Passes Reconciliation Package

On November 19, the U.S. House passed its version of President Biden’s  Build Back Better Act (BBBA), a $1.75 trillion (H.R. 5376) reconciliation package  that includes paid family leave, universal preschool, tax incentives, climate initiatives, and a Medicare drug price negotiation program.  The legislation passed on a 220-213 party-line vote, utilizing the reconciliation process that give the House majority nearly complete control over all elements of the bill and substantially limits the minorities ability to amend the bill.  The bill now goes to the Seante where a similar drafting process will be used.  Most importantly, however, the reconciliation process enables the Senate majority to pass a bill with a simple majority.  Once drafted, the majority leader can bring the bill straight to the floor. and any amendments are required to comply with reconciliation rules, with a vote on passage to follow. If the Senate’s version differs from the House’s version the House and Senate will have to conference both bills and come to an agreement on a single bill that must then pass the House and Senate.  The House also has the option of skipping conference and vote on the Senate bill.  If it passes it will go to the president for his signature.   

The BBBA invests heavily in social programs such as childcare, preschool education, paid parental leave, resources to address climate change, education and housing stabilization and much more. Below are more details about some of these important programs.  

WHAT’S IN THE BUILD BACK BETTER ACT:  

Investments in Affordable Housing:

BBBA would provide a total of $150 billion for affordable housing programs that either improve or build over 1 million housing units.  

  • $3.05 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, including $500 million for a new Manufactured Housing Community Improvement Program.  
  • $25 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers and supportive services.  
  • $35 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, including $15 billion to preserve and create affordable rental homes.  

Investments in Workforce Development:  

The bill would provide $4.5 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I programs within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  

  • $2 billion for the Dislocated Workers Work Employment and Training Activities  
  • $1 billion for Adult Worker Employment and Training Activities  
  • $1.5 billion Youth Workforce Investment Activities 

Investments in the Economic Development Administration: 

The bill would provide $5 billion to the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Of this total, counties would be eligible to receive funding under the following programs 

  • $3.36 billion for EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program to develop regional economic growth clusters, including grants for technical assistance, planning and predevelopment activities 
  • $480 million for EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program to provide grants for technical assistance, planning and predevelopment activities to energy and industrial transition communities 
  • $1.2 billion for a new Recompete Grants for Persistently Distressed Communities program, which would award grants to alleviate economic distress and support long-term comprehensive economic development and job creation 

Raises the Cap on The State and Local Tax Deduction: 

The bill would raise the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction from $10,000 to $80,000 and extend this cap through 2030. The $80,000 SALT cap amount would also apply to the 2021 tax year. For 2031, the SALT deduction cap would be set at $10,000. 

Investments in Climate Action:  

The BBBA would provide $555 billion for climate and clean energy investments. The bill provides tax credits up to $12,500 to those buying new electric vehicles, as well as incentives to encourage solar panel installation as well as the following:  

  • $17.8 billion to mitigate air pollution;  
  • $95 million would address hazardous materials through competitive EPA grants to reduce waste in communities to construct, expand, or modernize recycling infrastructure;  
  • $9 billion would help reduce lead in clean drinking water;  
  • and, $8.27 billion promoting environmental equity.  

Investments in Rural Development: 

The bill would provide $873 million to establish a new Rural Partnership Program through USDA, which aims to enhance rural communities’ access to federal community and economic development funding by providing flexible grants and technical assistance to a range of entities. Some additional investments in rural communities include:  

  • $9.7 billion for clean energy repowering for rural utilities; 
  • $3.5 billion to provide grants to support rural development;  
  • and, $2.7 billion for grants for construction, alteration, acquisition, modernization, renovation, or remodeling of agricultural resource facilities.  

Investments in Telecommunications: 

BBBA would allocate grants for NG911 (next generation 911) services including $9 million to establish an NG911 Cybersecurity Center within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) in addition to $1 million to establish a 16-member Public Safety NG911 Advisory Board.  Beyond the NG911 funding, the Act also allocates $295 million to NTIA for grants to public-private partnerships aimed at increasing access to broadband in urban communities. Some of the funding programs include:  

  • $300 million for the extension of the Emergency Connectivity Fund;  
  • and, $500 million in increased investments in next generation 911.  

Investments in Transportation: 

This legislation would make transportation more accessible and affordable, and help tackle the climate crisis by reducing carbon pollution from transportation and building more resilient infrastructure. Some of the transportation related programs in the bill include:  

  • $50 million facilitates national environmental policy act (nepa) reviews  
  • $294 million alternative fuel and low-emission aviation technology program  
  • $10 billion passenger rail improvement, modernizations, and emissions (prime) reduction grants  
  • $4 billion in neighborhood access and equity grants  
  • $900 million in reimbursements for use of low-carbon materials in transportation projects. 

The above is not an exhaustive list of every program and funding source in the entirety of BBBA. Additional resources and analysis from the National Association of Counties (NACo) can be found here. NARC will continue to monitor the legislation as it progresses through the Senate and provide you with additional information.  

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Bill Analysis

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Bill Analysis  

The Senate approved historic spending in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – a $1.2T bill that reauthorizes the nation’s surface transportation and drinking water and wastewater legislation and pours additional billions into new programs in transportation, energy transmission, resilience, broadband, and many others. NARC has conducted an analysis of much of the bill which is presented in two parts: a summary analysis of the provisions most applicable to metropolitan and regional planning organizations and a chart with an analysis of all of the transportation-related sections and most of the additional new spending contained in the IIJA. 

The bill’s $1.2T includes approximately $550B in new spending; approximately half of that new spending goes to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The IIJA would also provide billions in funding for energy transmission infrastructure, resilience, broadband, and many others. The result is higher funding levels in some existing programs and the creation of many new programs as well. 

The IIJA contains three types of funding: 

  1. Highway Trust Fund – These are funds taken from either the Highway Account or the Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund. These funds are provided as Contract Authority over the five years of the bill and act like “real money” that is available to spend.
  1. Guaranteed Appropriations – These are funds added by the bipartisan agreement and used to either increase funding for existing programs or create and fund new programs. Most of these funds will also be provided over five years but are “real” funds that do not need any additional action in the future to be made available.  
  1. General Fund – These are funds that have been “authorized” to be spent but require future action by the Appropriations Committee to be made available. It is likely that most of these funds will end up in the authorized pots, but examples do exist of programs that were authorized but never appropriated. 

In total, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will receive $567.5 billion from the BID. Of that amount, $293.4B is “baseline” spending (the level of spending from the current reauthorization bill, the FAST Act). That means USDOT will receive $274.1 billion in new spending authority, which is almost exactly half of the $550 billion in new spending that the BID contains overall. Of that $274 billion, $90 billion is provided as contract authority through the reauthorization bill. The other $184 billion in new spending is provided in “guaranteed appropriations” – funding that is outside of the HTF funding structure, in some cases to provide additional funding for existing programs and in others to create new programs.

For more information about the funding included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal:  

Please direct questions about the IIJA to Erich Zimmermann, Deputy Director/Director of Transportation Programs at erich@narc.org 

 

2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: Houston-Galveston Area Council: The Regional Conservation Framework

Houston-Galveston Area Council: The Regional Conservation Framework

I’d like to let you in on a little secret. The Houston-Galveston region is an ecological wonderland! I know that might not be the image that first comes to mind, but our region sits at the junction of southern pine forests, prairies, and coastal wetlands. We have 16,000 miles of bayous, rivers and coastline. These vibrant ecosystems provide habitat for diverse fish and wildlife species and boast some of the best birding sites in the world. 

Yet we face serious challenges in preserving these crucial resources in the face of anticipated population growth. We’re forecasting the region will add more than four million people and 120 square miles of new development over the next 25 years. There are many outstanding conservation programs underway in the region, largely led by non-profit organizations and supported by state and federal agencies, but there are opportunities for our local governments to play an even larger role. That’s why the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) developed the Regional Conservation Framework with high-level strategies to help the region’s local governments coordinate and magnify their conservation efforts.  

This first-of-its-kind project was based on extensive listening sessions with local elected officials conducted throughout H-GAC’s 13-county region. The resulting framework lays out a high-level vision for meaningful conservation in the region, impactful strategies and attainable action steps. As part of the project, H-GAC established extensive on-line resources including a useful grants library, searchable by funding sources, eligible uses, and land types, proven best practices and case studies, and a helpful conservation mapping tool. 

The framework was funded by a grant from a local foundation who recently awarded H-GAC a generous follow-up grant to begin the Regional Conservation Initiative-an effort to kick-start implementation of the framework. Key elements to a successful project will be to work directly with local governments, in partnership with non-governmental and private organizations, to develop multi-jurisdictional partnerships and secure funding for local and regional conservation projects. Another key element of the initiative will be the development of public awareness tools and information resources for local governments to help build public support for conservation efforts in their communities. H-GAC will also provide data on the quantifiable value of conserved forests, wetlands, and other open spaces for residents of the region. 

The Regional Conservation Framework and related resources are available at h-gac.com/regional-conservation. For questions about this project, please email conservation@h-gac.com.  

Blog written and submitted by: 

Jeff Taebel, FAICP  
Director, Community and Environmental Planning 
Houston-Galveston Area Council 
 

2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: NARC Recognizes the Leadership of Douglas R. Hooker

Douglas R. Hooker, known better by his colleagues as Doug, has been an exemplary leader in the Atlanta region for over two decades. Serving today as the executive director at the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Doug has spearheaded countless projects benefiting people within the Atlanta community, and he’s worked to share his successes with regional leaders throughout the country in the process. These successes along with the extraordinary leadership abilities that Doug possesses, NARC is pleased to recognize Doug as a recipient of the 2021 NARC President’s Award.  

During his time at ARC, Doug has been both a strong leader in his own community and an active voice for regional councils throughout the country. Perhaps the best example of these qualities is the “Regional Councils for the 21st Century” effort, which worked to help regional councils evolve to meet the challenges of the future. In practice, this initiative facilitated discussions with regional council colleagues and elected officials while also bringing in expert assistance and thought-provoking exercises and readings to help regional leaders understand their roles in the community. This effort helped to ensure that Doug’s exemplary qualities will live on in future generations of regional leaders.  

Doug has also been a strong advocate for racial equity in regional planning. While at ARC, he pioneered a joint project with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) aiming to promote racial equity through a six-part conversation series for regional council directors. Each conversation focused on a different aspect of racial equity and allowed participants to learn, share best practices, and support one another both regionally and nationally. Further, it led to the creation of a resource guide for regional agencies aimed at fostering racial reconciliation and conversations between board members, community leaders, and staff. Though this project, Doug demonstrated the power of regional cooperation in confronting even the most prescient issues in our society today.  

Within the Atlanta region, Doug has worked in countless roles that made the community better off. To name a few, he’s served on the boards of Leadership Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Civic League, the Regional Business Coalition Board, Georgians for Passenger Rail, and many, many more. He also serves on the NARC Executive Directors’ Council and helped virtually host the 2021 annual conference on behalf of ARC.  

Doug is recognized in regional organizations throughout the country as a brilliant leader and champion for regionalism. He embodies much of NARC’s mission and is thus a perfect fit for this award.   

 

2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: San Joaquin Council of Governments: EZHub, Fare-Payments-as-a-Service for the Vamos Mobility App

San Joaquin Council of Governments: EZHub, Fare Payments-as-a-Service for the Vamos Mobility App

In late 2018, the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) and the region’s 7 transit operators sought to integrate fares under the guise of easing the transit experience for riders by developing a program that would provide both trip planning and fare payments to citizens all in one online location. SJCOG hit the drawing board for new ideas and ways to improve the transit riders daily experience. Based on extensive research, planning meetings, and comments from presented concepts SJCOG decided to further invest in a system they already had in place. The Vamos Mobility application helps citizens plan their trips, all SJCOG had to do was find a way to build in a payment structure.  The Vamos Mobility app had launched in Spring 2019 through a partnership with transit operators from both San Joaquin and Stanislaus County, Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG), UC Davis, and the California Air Resources Board.

In the Winter of 2019, SJCOG sought a mobile ticketing developer that would merge a fare payment system with the Vamos Mobility App. SJCOG partnered with Masabi LLC and their fare-payments-as-a-service product and in November 2020, EZHub was officially launched onto the Vamos Mobility Platform. This “one stop shop” provides users with seamless trip planning and ticket purchasing all on the same page. In addition to this, the program provides a contactless payment option and allows opportunities such as fare capping, ticket promotions, and carsharing reservations.

The platform ensures greater communication and coordination between transit agencies allowing them to work together as one region. This ultimately enhances the community’s experience by giving transit users the opportunity to purchase tickets from the seven participating transit systems. The partnership between SJCOG and Masabi is scalable in order met the needs of varied transit agencies providing more equitable access to the platform. The investment into Vamos made collaboration possible and will now make way for additional investments and expansions to the platform.

The development of EZ-Hub is a rare case in which competitors have joined together to enhance an existing taxpayer-funded program. It is a prime example of what can be accomplished through regional collaboration, coordination, and partnerships. The app, available from the App Store and Google Play, has connected residents of California’s Central Valley with affordable, clean, and safe transit.

EZHub How to Video