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Funding Opportunities and Updates | May 14, 2020

Department of Commerce Announces Economic Development Assistance Program

On May 7, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the creation of the CARES Act economic development assistance program.

The program will be administered through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at Commerce, which received $1.5 billion in economic assistance grant funding under the CARES Act. Grants will be made through the EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which will assess the needs of local and regional stakeholders.

The grants are expected to support a range of construction and nonconstruction projects in communities across the country.

Visit the EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance page for more information and application requirements.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020

On April 21, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tom Carper (D-DE) released drafts of two pieces of water infrastructure legislation. The bills include draft water resources development legislation, titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, and draft drinking water legislation, titled the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. Both draft bills build on the bipartisan success of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump.

The bills were scheduled for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in late April. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) serves as a minority member on the committee.

Relevant bill sections include:

  • Section 1058. Report on barriers to infrastructure development at United States ports. This section requires the Secretary, within 180 days of enactment of this Act and in consultation with all relevant federal agencies, to submit a report on the barriers to infrastructure and capital improvement projects faced by ports and port authorities. The report must also examine the impact those barriers have on the strategic competitiveness of ports of the United States and provide recommendations to reduce those barriers.
  • Section 3002. Grants to ports to reduce emissions from waterborne vessels. This section authorizes the USEPA to spend $20 million for each fiscal year 2021 and 2022 for grants to reduce emissions coming from waterborne vessels docked at U.S. ports.

Northwest States Receive Fisheries Assistance

On May 7, the Department of Commerce announced the allocation of $300 million for assistance to fishery participants for individual states, tribes, and territories. The Pacific Northwest Congressional delegation advocated strenuously for funding, and the West Coast secured more than one-third of available funding.

  • Alaska: $50 million
  • California: $18.35 million
  • Oregon: $15.98 million
  • Washington: $50 million
  • Federally recognized tribes on the West Coast: $5.09 million
  • Federally recognized tribes in Alaska: $1 million

Unfortunately, the State of Idaho did not meet the threshold for assistance.

These allocations will be used to address direct or indirect fishery-related losses as well as subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial impacts related to COVID-19.

California Borrows Money from Federal Government Amid Rising Unemployment Claims

California has become the first state to borrow money from the federal government as it struggles to continue paying out unemployment benefits. The state borrowed $348 million from the Treasury Department last week and received approval to borrow up to a total of $10 billion through the end of July. The money is to be used solely for unemployment benefits.

Other states have received approval for loans but have not yet borrowed. Illinois has been approved for $12.6 billion and Connecticut for $1.1 billion. Both states will use the money for their unemployment insurance funds.

If unemployment claims continue to rise, additional states are expected to follow suit. At least 20 states and jurisdictions do not currently have enough money in their unemployment coffers to pay benefits through a one-year recession.

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James J. Maul, RG, LHG

Principal Hydrogeologist