A Rural Capacity Map
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the largest investment in climate resilience in U.S. history. The $1.2 trillion in funding will create transformative opportunities for local governments that own and maintain most of the nation’s infrastructure, but first state and federal agencies must ensure the resources get to the places that need it the most. To help identify communities that need support but may lack staff and expertise to compete for federal funding, we have created a first-of-its-kind Rural Capacity Map.
Communities will need capacity—the staffing, resources, and expertise—to apply for funding, fulfill onerous reporting requirements, and design, build, and maintain infrastructure projects over the long term. Many communities simply lack the staff—and the tax base to support staff—needed to apply for federal programs. Even communities that can put together applications are often outcompeted by higher-capacity, coastal cities. The places that lack capacity are often the places that most need infrastructure investments: places with a legacy of disinvestment including rural communities and communities of color.
Places that receive the most external funding – whether from state and federal programs or philanthropy – often have larger staff, more expertise, and deeper political influence, not necessarily greater merit. Communities that need the most assistance may be the least likely to even submit applications. For the United States to fully adapt to climate-driven threats and bolster aging infrastructure, its programs and policies must account for community capacity.