Obtaining Stimulus Funds Comes With 'Green' Strings Attached

Author:Mr Daniel Jones, Jr. and Scott R. Everett
Profession:Dinsmore & Shohl
 
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Originally published March 10, 2010

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Act is an extraordinary response to the slowdown plaguing the United States economy. Among the ARRA's goals are stabilization of the economy, modernization of the nation's energy and transportation infrastructure, providing education funding to increase the skills of the American workforce, and improving access to affordable healthcare. Funds from the ARRA are provided either in the form of grants, which require the grantee to share a percentage of the project costs (usually 50%), or low interest loans. As part of President Obama's goal of promoting transparency and accountability in government spending, the administration required all departments to create a Recovery Act website and provide weekly updates to the public concerning their implementation of the Act. A summary of the various department's actions can be found here. Although the ARRA's stated goal is to distribute funds to "shovel ready projects" as quickly as possible in order to promote job creation, this must be balanced against the need to assess the potential environmental impact of any project. The ARRA is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which adds a significant layer of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome prior to project approval. Thus, organizations seeking to obtain funding through the ARRA must take a proactive approach in managing the application process. In fact, many entities report that their requests for funding have been denied for failure to provide sufficient detail in the application process. This article will highlight the critical need for organizations to understand how their proposed funding requests will be impacted by federal environmental regulations and the importance of preparing an application that demonstrates compliance with NEPA. With over $32 billion in funding authorized as of November 6, 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been among the most active in announcing opportunities and allocating funds to eligible projects. Periodically, the DOE will release a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). The FOA identifies the nature of the project, the criteria used to determine the recipient(s), and all relevant deadlines. Each FOA contains different criteria and provides the scoring system used by the DOE to weight each particular aspect of a project. Common criteria include confirmation that the...

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