$25 million in grant funding is set to help expedited infrastructure project work, according to Illinois Governor Jay “J.B” Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
These Rebuild Illinois funds will accelerate public infrastructure projects across Illinois that can begin as early as this summer–projects which would have faced extreme delays due to many local governments recently losing much-needed revenues. These losses are one effect of a heavy decrease in vehicle travel due to shelter-in-place orders in the wake of the coronavirus. The heaviest hit comes from toll fees and fuel taxes, and overall state transportation revenue is planned to decrease by about $50 billion throughout the next year and a half, according to The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
“This will keep key public infrastructure projects in the pipeline and will support the return of skilled labor to job sites for the busy summer season,” said Pritzker in his announcement last month. “Starting today, local governments with shovel-ready projects, including school districts, townships, and other entities, can apply for this funding.”
Those eligible for grants include local governments and public entities with important public infrastructure projects in the works that could begin within 90 days of receiving their funds. Projects eligible for funding must also be public assets, not have recurring expenses, and must be permanent. They must also meet “shovel-ready” guidelines and the Illinois’ Business Enterprise Program minority business participation requirements.
“This program is about putting people back on the job now,” said Tim Drea, President of Illinois AFL-CIO. “We applaud Governor Pritzker for being proactive and innovative. The return of every dollar spent on public works is another brick in rebuilding our economy, both in terms of jobs created and economic development created by improved infrastructure.”
Fast-Track grant source funding comes directly from Rebuild Illinois, which is a $45 billion plan passed to offer Illinois’ first comprehensive capital plan in over 10 years. DCEO is also spearheading multiple programs under Rebuild Illinois, such as funding new public works projects, investing in broadband capacity expansion, incentivizing business development, and other efforts that will work to promote economic growth throughout the state.
The grant program is one of multiple economic growth efforts implemented by DCEO to help promote economic health after the challenges of COVID-19, and is initiating relief programs that will allow over $100 million to become available to areas throughout Illinois. Some of these relief programs include: the Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program, the Emergency Small Business Loan Fund, Emergency Hospitality Grants, and other efforts that will serve communities and businesses in need.
“We recognize the unique challenge and burdens that COVID-19 is placing on us all, and we are taking steps to provide relief to businesses and communities,” said director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Erin Guthrie. “Through the Fast-Track Public Infrastructure Grants program, the administration will provide a much-needed boost for works across the state as well as the critical infrastructure projects our state depends on.”
Fast-Track front-loads part of a Notice of Funding that will push forward available funds between $500,000 and $5 million. These grants will be dispersed on a rolling basis, and will be prioritized to areas that are most in need.
The main goal of these grants is to restore significant public works projects that may have been paused or cancelled due to COVID-19. These funds will be used toward projects like water and sewer system expansion, school modernization reinvestments, and bringing necessary updates to other public buildings. They will also help laborers return to work in time for the upcoming construction season.
Communities that may need more time or that do not currently have projects meeting the shovel-ready criteria can submit an application to receive a grant for remaining funds by the end of June. DCEO is also conducting a series of webinars with local governments to give more information on these new Fast-Track Grants. You can find a list of upcoming outreach efforts, as well as more small business resources, here.