F A L L 2 0 0 9 N E W S L E T T E R
STIMULUS $$$ IN WEST VIRGINIA:
HOW CAN MY COMMUNITY PARTICIPATE?
By Gwen Hagaman
Stimulus money is swirling all around us, but the process to submit projects for funding seems elusive. The Alliance asked me to do some investigation and find out how the process works. The answers are surprising simple… yet stimulus money remains out of reach for many in our state.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) was passed to put Americans to work by funding projects that qualify for Federal funding which could be started immediately, termed 'shovel ready'. To keep the money moving quickly, no new agency or vetting process was established. Instead, each Federal funding agency was simply given more money to grant for projects. The schedule was tight.
The table below shows the allocation and distribution of funds through Sept. 4, 2009. The information shown is from the White House website www.RECOVERY.gov. This website has a great deal of information including the full version of the Act, links to funding agencies and reporting requirements for those who have received ARRA funding.
‡Effective May 21, a Department of Labor accounting adjustment was made to reflect an $8.9 billion dollar reduction from the previously reported outlays (i.e.: paid out).
*Total excludes approved loan amounts for Guaranteed Loan Financing.
†Totals may not add up because of rounding.
Source: Federal Agency Financial and Activity Reports.
The State of West Virginia has set up an informative website showing where stimulus money is being used in our state with a break down to county levels. The projects shown on this website are the ones originated by the State government agencies. Projects generated by local government, community organizations or non-profits are not included. The dollar amounts are estimates, the actual expenditures will be reported in October when the ARRA period ends. In addition, a copy of the Governor's Letter of Certification is available from the website for those who may need it.
"The joint goal of stimulus funding and our administration is to maintain and create jobs," said Matt Turner, Director of Communications for Governor Manchin. "For example, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund reported (as of July 31, 2009) creating a total of 81 construction jobs spanning all three Congressional Districts of West Virginia in communities such as Kermit, Harpers Ferry and Marmet."
According to Mr. Turner, approximately 30 percent of the state roadways are Federal Aid eligible. "Highway infrastructure investments have long term economic effects," he stated. "Projects were identified in each district that met ARRA's criteria and timeframe. Projects were categorized by the program in which they fell, and then compared by metrics used by the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH)."
"Each project that met the ARRA's criteria and was available according to the ARRA's timeline was placed on a list and then given a priority ranking based strictly on a needs analysis," continued Mr. Turner. "The projects were added to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) via the public comment process. Every taxpayer was given 10 days to comment on the projects being added."
Are the taxpayers of West Virginia aware of the 'public comment process'? Visit http://www.alliancewv.org/alliwv_discuss.html to share your comments with others about stimulus funds, project planning, and the public comment processes used within the state.
"Many citizens have submitted their ideas for ARRA projects directly to the Governor's Office," Mr. Turner continued. "We are saving those ideas and, if further funding becomes available, we will consider those as we look for new projects that fit the criteria of the programs."
"Our ARRA opportunities were a product of happenstance," said Mr. McCann. "Lincoln County Commission did not receive any notice of funding availability." Lincoln County Commission did apply for stimulus funding through the Army Corps of Engineers for a $1.1 million water project on Route 3, the USDA for $1.0 million to connect an additional 30 homes to the ongoing Mud River Sewer project, and for Courthouse Annex building project loan.
In many cases, projects that received ARRA funding had already been approved by Federal Agencies and were just waiting for funding to be available. One example is the Belington Community Medical Services Association (BCMSA), which received $1.1 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand accessibility of services for patients, add physicians and add new services in health education. The project proposal was prepared by a professional grant writer and submitted directly to HRSA by BCMSA. Submitted four years in a row, the proposal was finally approved in Sept. 2008 and was waiting for funding to become available when ARRA was passed.
"I was notified in Sept. 2008 that funding was not available for our project and that our application would be held through Sept. 2009, should funding become available," said Eric Ruf, Executive Director of BCMSA. "There were 126 projects across the nation in the same situation as us when we were notified of our funding in March 2009. My impression was that HRSA decided to fund all 126 projects that were awaiting funding."
"HRSA has provided additional stimulus dollars for other WV community health centers through two other application programs called the Increased Demand for Services Grant and the Capital Improvement Program Grant," said Mr. Ruf.
Because many Federal Agencies have funded projects which were submitted before ARRA was enacted, much of the stimulus money was spent without consideration of new projects. Valuable projects, which were sidelined because of no funding, are finally able to start because stimulus money became available. And afterall, moving projects and putting people to work quickly is the main point of ARRA. However, having no opportunity to prepare and submit new projects has been frustrating for others who hoped ARRA would help them address pressing issues where funding for studies, engineering, or other preparatory issues has just not been available.
Regional Planning and Development Councils have helped their service areas navigate ARRA funding in the areas of public water, sewer, broadband and energy efficiency. "Common to all water and sewer projects that were funded by stimulus dollars were their ability to demonstrate that they were 'shovel ready'", said W. D. Smith, Executive Director of Region 4 Planning and Development Council based in Summersville. "In essence this meant that the projects were scheduled to be built immediately. They were designed, permitted, lands and rights-of-way in place, and typically fully funded (without stimulus money)."
West Virginia's 11 regional planning and development councils have been asked to administer stimulus funds for energy efficiency projects in West Virginia as it relates to their jurisdictions. "Our understanding is that county governments and municipalities will be eligible to apply for funding for energy efficiency projects," Mr. Smith explained. "Guidelines from the State are forthcoming."
July 20, 2009 was the deadline for applications for stimulus funding through the USDA or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). These programs have a combined $7 billion in grant and loan funds available via a competitive program to governmental, non-profits and for-profits for the advancement of broadband to rural unserved and underserved communities in the United States.
Region 1 and Region 4 Councils have (through their non-profit Regional Optical Communications, Inc.) submitted a joint application for approximately $43 million to construct a high speed fiber backbone through their joint 11 county territory. You may send letters of support for this project to W. D. Smith, Region 4 Planning and Development Council, 425 Main Street, Suite A, Summersville WV 26651 or call 304-872-4970 for more information.
"The Alliance is very excited that the regional planning and development councils have begun work on broadband expansion projects," said Marcel Fortin, Executive Director of the Alliance. "They will apply their expertise in infrastructure project management to technology expansion. We want to help Regions 1 and 4 to succeed in providing top quality broadband to the citizens living in their 11 county territory."
"We (regional planning and development councils) continue to hear that a 'round two' of stimulus funds may occur," said Mr. Smith. "Should that be true, communities that wish to access those funds should, in our opinion, have their projects in a 'shovel ready' state ASAP."
"I hope this article has been helpful in understanding the stimulus funding process and where to go for information, help with applications, and determining which Federal Agency to submit your proposal to," said Mr. Fortin. "If you want to discuss a project in your community, give me a call at 304-756-2264 and I will be pleased to help."
NOW BUZZING IN WEST VIRGINIA…
The Beehive is the signature website of One Economy Corporation (OEC). Since opening in 2000, OEC has worked to maximize the potential of technology to help low-income people improve their lives and enter the economic mainstream. The series of 'Beehive' websites OEC has established in communities across four continents provides resource information on important topics including: health, jobs, money, schools, and family.
The Claude Worthing Benedum Foundation funded creation of a Beehive site for West Virginians and introduced Sonja Murray, Senior Vice President of OEC, to Marcel Fortin, Executive Director of the Alliance. "We were able to get our project going very quickly because Mr. Fortin from the Alliance introduced us to the Family Resource Networks (FRNs) and Robin Brown, Executive Director of Nicholas County FRN," explained Ms. Murray.
"The Alliance helped us identify communities in West Virginia that are engaged in expanding technology and are investing in making technology available to their citizens," continued Ms. Murray. "The FRNS have been collecting paper resource directories for many years. With their help we were able to convert this information for online delivery and keep it updated. As people decide to use some of the resources, the FRNs help them implement the services they choose."
The new website, wv.thebeehive.org (note 'wv.' Instead of 'www.' in most urls) is already up and running. OEC calls the Beehive websites "public purpose media". The sites work like contextual yellow pages with information sorted by topic and zip code. Site visitors are able to quickly find relevant local resources. If the resource has its own website, a link is provided.
"We hope these resources will be shared with communities as a data draw through websites across the state," said Ms. Murray. For example a county commission website may offer the Beehive information as their own resources offering.
A series of postcards featuring resource topics such as diabetes or job searches as shown here will be used to increase public awareness of the West Virginia website.
MEET CONNIE LUPARDUS
Connie Lupardus was working for Central Appalachia Empowerment Zone (CAEZ) when the Alliance was being formed. CAEZ's Executive Director Jerry Sizemore appointed Ms. Lupardus to be the organization's representative for the Alliance. In 2003, she became Executive Director of CAEZ. Today she serves as Secretary of the Alliance.
CAEZ is a non-profit economic development organization that serves Clay County and census tracts within Braxton, Fayette, Nicholas and Roane Counties. They began in 1995 as a Federal Empowerment Zone.
"Being part of the Alliance allows me to hear about what other communities are doing," Ms. Lupardus said. "Our community has participated in many Alliance projects including the Broadband Access Survey and the Technology Minigrant Program." The City of Clay acquired and installed security cameras with minigrant funds.
Ms. Lupardus appreciates other Alliance members and what they share. "Marcel Fortin is a great resource for technology questions," she said.
A competitive horsewoman, Ms. Lupardus has served on the Board of the West Virginia Horse Council since 1994. Other favorite activities are canoeing and mountain biking. This summer she and her sister shared a two-day bicycle adventure on the Greenbrier River Trail.
Ms. Lupardus lives in Clay and was born at a small farm in Dry Ridge, near Bomont. She is married and has three children and five grandchildren.
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