A significant number of provisions within the Trump administration’s infrastructure investment outline released today will go to rural projects.
The Trump infrastructure plan contains $50 billion in set-aside funding for its proposed “Rural Infrastructure Program.” Eighty percent of the proposed funding would be sent to states in a block-grant formula to “respond to the unique rural needs” identified by governors in consultation with federal staff and USDA Rural Development state directors.
Twenty percent of the funds will be made as grants within the following “eligible asset classes:”
- Transportation: roads, bridges, public transit, rail, airports, and maritime and inland waterway ports.
- Broadband (and other high-speed data and communication conduits).
- Water and waste water: drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, land revitalization and brownfields.
- Power and electric: governmental generation, transmission and distribution facilities.
- Water resources: flood risk management, water supply, and waterways.
The document defines rural projects as those serving “rural areas with populations of less than 50,000 residents.” The plan does not state whether the 50,000 figure applies to a county, city, or some other geographical unit.
The proposed funding would:
…[P]rovide for significant investment in rural infrastructure to address long-unmet needs. This investment is needed to spur prosperous rural economies, facilitate freight movement, improve access to reliable and affordable transportation options and enhance health and safety for residents and businesses.”
The draft also states that a certain portion of infrastructure funding should be set aside for tribal communities and U. S. territories that lack statehood status, such as Puerto Rico.
The proposal would create a “rural formula,” calculated based on “rural lane miles and rural population adjusted to reflect policy objectives.” The funds would be distributed to states with minimum and maximum limits for each state in the program.
In addition to the specific rural program, the outline contains a number of other features of interest to rural communities. Examples include:
- A proposed subsidy for USDA Rural Utility Service lending programs.
- Funding for National Parks and other public land infrastructure by collecting additional revenues from fossil fuel and mineral leasing.
- Provision of authority to agencies that could sell off public assets for energy generation and distribution, such as the distribution systems of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Southwestern Power Administration, and Bonneville Power Administration.
The infrastructure plan also would reduce environmental and public health standards and speed up approval of environmental permitting rules.
The plan provides tax breaks and investor incentives, which it says will leverage private capital for infrastructure projects.
Provisions could also affect rural workers who travel to other states for employment. The proposal directs states that accept federal funds to allow out-of-state licensed skilled-trade workers to be eligible for employment and project bidding, something currently banned by many states.