Planning for COVID-19 Recovery

Author: Seth Otto, AICP, LEED AP Published: October 23, 2020

October is National Community Planning Month and this year’s theme, Planning is Essential to Recovery, highlights how planning and planners can lead communities to equitable, resilient, and long-lasting recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing racial inequities, and devastating wildfires.

MFA has been diligent in identifying and sharing opportunities that help our clients, communities, and region persevere through public health and societal challenges and in light of significant economic and budgetary constraints. We have partnered with Crossroad Strategies, a non-partisan, multidisciplinary lobbying firm based in Washington, D.C., to funnel legislative updates in real time to our funding newsletter subscribers.

Most recently, we’ve heard that communities should begin preparing for the possibility of federal economic stimulus grants and programs in early 2021. These programs could look distinctly different depending on the outcomes of the federal elections, and we are encouraging our municipal partners to remain flexible as they prepare for potential new funding in the new year. There are, however, lessons to be learned from previous economic recoveries that can help communities be well-positioned, regardless of how the economic stimulus programs may roll out.

What can communities do to get “shovel-ready”?

We know from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that projects are more likely to receive funding if they are “shovel-ready”, meaning they have advanced into the design and permitting processes and are poised for construction. One step public entities can take in anticipation of funding becoming available is to re-evaluate and re-prioritize their Capital Improvement Programs with the following questions in mind:

Which projects are “shovel ready”, and how do they match up to federal, state, and local funding programs?

What steps are needed to get other projects closer to “shovel ready” as soon as possible?

Grant programs to support economic stimulus and recovery in 2021 are likely to focus on infrastructure:

  • Transportation infrastructure
  • Marine facilities
  • Sewer/water/stormwater facilities
  • Broadband infrastructure

There may also be a strong emphasis on environmental protection and projects that address the impacts of climate change. We are closely monitoring the potential reinstatement of federal environmental regulations, either via Congress or executive action.

We continue to track these programs closely:

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
  • National Defense Authorization Act
  • Great American Outdoors Act
  • America’s Water Infrastructure Act 2020 (AWIA)
  • Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD, formerly known as TIGER grants) grants administered by USDOT
  • Port Infrastructure Development Program administered by the USDOT Maritime Administration (MARAD)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants
  • U.S. Economic Development Administration grants

If you’d like to stay up to date on these programs and how funding can help your community recover from the effects of COVID-19, join our mailing list.

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Seth Otto, AICP, LEED AP

Principal Planner