The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a 2020 notice of funding availability under its Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, including grants for the new State infrastructure financing authority WIFIA (SWIFIA). The programs accelerate investment in critical water infrastructure through innovative and flexible financing that can support diverse projects in communities large and small. This year’s funding will provide up to $6 billion to support $12 billion in water infrastructure projects, while creating more than 35,000 jobs and improving environmental protection in communities across the country.
“[The] WIFIA loan program has become one of the most effective tools in President Trump’s efforts to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, create jobs and safeguard public health and the environment,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This new round of $6 billion in funding comes in time to help communities that are trying to recover from the health and financial stress of the Covid-19 pandemic and, for the first time, includes funding expressly available to states.”
To date, EPA has issued 24 WIFIA loans totaling $5.3 billion in credit assistance to help finance $11.7 billion in water infrastructure projects and support 25,000 jobs. Eight WIFIA loans closed and one refinanced from March 2020 through June 2020; they will save ratepayers over $1 billion compared to typical bond financing while supporting the financial health of vital water systems.
This year’s notice of funding availability prioritizes construction-ready projects in three areas: updating aging infrastructure; reducing exposure to lead and addressing emerging contaminants; and, water reuse and recycling. The 2020 action builds upon the existing, active pipeline of WIFIA projects, which includes 49 contracts in 19 states and the District of Columbia. For the first time, the agency will evaluate submitted projects using additional criteria that were developed to help clarify project and federal budgetary considerations. EPA will accept letters of interest from prospective WIFIA borrowers through mid-September.
For the first time, EPA is also providing funds under SWIFIA. Authorized by Congress as part of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, the new program offers low-interest loans to state water infrastructure programs (e.g., the State Revolving Funds) which then help finance needed water infrastructure projects in local communities. This round of funding will provide SWIFIA borrowers up to $1 billion to support $2 billion in water infrastructure projects. EPA will accept letters of interest from state water infrastructure programs concurrent with proposals for the main WIFIA program.
The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 fuels a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for regionally and nationally significant projects. WIFIA credit assistance can be used for a wide range of projects, including drinking water treatment and distribution; wastewater conveyance and treatment; and, enhanced energy efficiency upgrades at drinking water and wastewater facilities. EPA will evaluate proposed projects described in the letters of interest using WIFIA’s statutory and regulatory criteria as described in the notice of funding availability. Through this competitive process, EPA will select projects that it intends to fund and invite them to continue the application process. Additional information on WIFIA and 2020 funding can be obtained by visiting www.epa.gov/wifia.
DAVIS-BACON ENFORCEMENT ENRICHES BRIDGE DECK CONTRACTOR CREW MEMBERS
Idaho Falls, Idaho-based JM Concrete Inc. has paid $92,290 in back wages to 27 carpenters, drivers, general laborers and power equipment operators who performed work on the Lorenzo Bridge Rehabilitation, a $1.8 million contract on State Highway 20 in Jefferson and Madison Counties. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators cited Davis-Bacon Act violations when they determined that the contractor failed to pay crew members prevailing wages and fringe benefits and issue paychecks weekly.
“The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring that workers receive all the wages they have legally earned, especially in these unprecedented times,” says Western Division Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez. “This investigation sends a strong message that the Wage and Hour Division will actively protect workers’ rights and level the playing field for employers.”
The Lorenzo Bridge contract included replacement of the deck’s top layer and approach slabs, curb repairs, metal rail replacement, and fixing abutment, pier and girder cracks. The project proceeded with a Federal Highway Administration grant, administered by the Idaho Transportation Department. Davis-Bacon and Related Acts apply to contractors and subcontractors performing on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair of public works. They require contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area.