Guidebook aims to help communities tap infrastructure funds

Josh Boak
Associated Press

Washington – The Biden administration on Monday issued a guidebook to help federal, state and local government officials know how to access the nearly $1 trillion made available by the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Mitch Landrieu, a senior White House adviser who is supervising the infrastructure spending, said the goal of the 461-page book is to ensure that all communities have the details on how to qualify for funding, no matter their size or politics.

Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Washington.

“It’s an absolute road map,” said Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans.

The book is meant to level the playing field by making it easier for smaller cities, tribal leaders, nonprofits and faith-based groups to compete for money that usually only lobbyists know how to access. The infrastructure deal is unique in its scope as it goes beyond roads and bridges to include such initiatives as broadband internet, replacement of lead water pipes and resilience against climate change.

President Joe Biden welcomed governors to the White House on Monday. The state leaders were in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, and Biden pushed them on spending the infrastructure money.

“You know how to build roads and bridges,” the Democratic president told them. “Well, we got a hell of a lot to build.”

Administration officials assembled the book quickly as the infrastructure package became law on Nov. 15. Copies are available online at build.gov, though the administration is working with associations and direct contacts to make sure it reaches government officials in communities of all sizes. Landrieu said he has already spoken with 43 governors and more than 250 mayors as part of the push.

The infrastructure package includes 375 distinct programs, of which 125 are new. And while the guidebook is more than twice the size of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby,” it’s considerably shorter and easier to navigate than the infrastructure law, which stretched for more than 1,000 pages.

About 60% of the funds are available through formula and 40% through competitive applications. Not all the infrastructure money is able to go out as the federal government is operating on a continuing resolution that runs through Feb. 18, instead of an annual budget. Still, not all of the money will go out immediately as the programs are generally operating on a five- to seven-year timeline.