Fill in the GAP | UDaily

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New UD program connects Delaware local governments with free resources and support to seek federal infrastructure funding

In the nation’s capital, there is a unique $1.2 trillion cache that cities and towns across the country can mine. Funds can be spent on a variety of infrastructure projects, the less than provocative but undeniably essential work that keeps America going – clean water systems, broadband access, roads, bridges, cybersecurity, and more.

It is there to be taken by municipalities whose managers, mayors and staff present the right case. Files that they don’t have time to put together.

“They often do double and triple duty,” said Troy Mix, a political scientist at the Institute of Public Administration (IPA). “They keep the lights on, make sure the bills are paid, make sure they communicate with their constituents. And that pressure has been amplified during the pandemic.

Enter the University of Delaware IPA, housed within the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School for Public Policy and Administration. A new collaborative agreement with the Delaware Office of Management and Budget enables the IPA to hire three staff members and launch a grant assistance program to help local governments across the state tap into in the aforementioned funds, the results of the federal bipartisan infrastructure law signed into law late last year.

According to the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, the odds are especially high against small and medium rural and low-income communities. Sixty percent of Delaware’s 57 municipalities each have fewer than 2,000 residents.

Mix said this is where IPA’s 50 years of experience in assisting local governments becomes a major asset. They are natural connectors; they know people; they know who to contact in the event of a problem; they know which nonprofits advocate which issues; they know who might want to start a project but who needs partners.

“A lot of times the grants are for something new, something that doesn’t exist,” he said. “Where we play a big role is bringing together the right stakeholders, the right team to get those grants.”

In addition to Mix and graduate and undergraduate students from the Biden School, three new hires will enable the IPA to help local governments identify and respond to grant funding opportunities. Chase Barnes and Matthew Harris joined the IPA in July and September, respectively, and the search is underway for a third addition to the team. Barnes, who received his master’s degree in public administration from the Biden School in 2022, brings his experience as a legislative member and member in local government management, and Harris, who graduated from UD’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2005 , returns to UD after more than a dozen years working as an urban planner for the City of Wilmington.

The IPA Grants Assistance Team assists civic leaders in several ways. A curated funding opportunities portal helps city officials discover promising grants, and regular walk-in grant development hours provide the time and space to answer questions and provide on-demand assistance. Ultimately, IPA staff and students will put pen to paper to help cities translate project concepts and plans into grant applications. While serving as guides through the matrix world of government infrastructure funding.

Greg Patterson is the State of Delaware Infrastructure Improvement Coordinator. He helped design this project on behalf of the Governor and knows how complex infrastructure management can be. For example, he said, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act includes 375 federal programs, administered by 10 different federal agencies.

“You have to be able to look through all of this and try to stay on top of this and everything that’s coming out of Washington and various federal agencies,” Patterson said. “This program will definitely help cities and towns take advantage of those opportunities and hopefully get some of those dollars.”

How many dollars will come to Delaware remains to be seen, though Mix and Patterson said it would be far beyond what municipalities in the first state could have expected without IPA assistance.

Consultants often charge hundreds of dollars an hour for the type of custom grant development services that IPA offers. Typically, this cost would be too exorbitant for many small, low-resource communities in Delaware. Now they have a fighting chance.

About the Institute of Public Administration

The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) at the University of Delaware serves the policy, planning, and management needs of its partners through the integration of applied research, professional development, and training of leaders of tomorrow. As the research and public service center of the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, IPA collaborates with state agencies, city governments, nonprofit organizations, communities and businesses to examine complex political issues and improve the quality of life in Delaware and beyond.

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