White House looks to help smaller cities get infrastructure boost

Vehicles travel along the 12th Street corridor in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 8, 2022. Picture taken February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Stephanie Strasburg

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - The White House and philanthropic agencies are working to make it easier for smaller cities and counties to apply for funding under a $1 trillion infrastructure law that aims to rebuild U.S. roads, bridges, airports and expand broadband access.

The Biden administration on Wednesday is releasing a guide for communities to access over $700 million in technical assistance funding in 65 programs.

Officials argue larger cities often have an unfair advantage because they can hire lobbyists or consultants to help them navigate the complex government grant process.

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"Technical assistance, especially for smaller communities, is a problem," said White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in an interview. "We want to make sure they know what's available and how to navigate the system. This isn't just about access, but it's also about project delivery."

There are about 375 separate grant programs that will accept applications over the next 24 months.

The White House noted Bloomberg Philanthropies, Emerson Collective, the Ford Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities on Tuesday launched a $50 million "Local Infrastructure Hub" to help smaller and midsize U.S. cities access infrastructure funds.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $65 billion for broadband internet funding; $66 billion for rail; $25 billion for airports and $39 billion in new transit spending.

The White House has released $110 billion in infrastructure funding to date, including for 4,300 specific projects, many of them airport-related.

In April, the White House issued guidance to federal agencies on reviewing grant applications and emphasized the need for strict oversight to ensure funds are properly spent. The government plans to hire 8,000 people to implement the infrastructure law.

"We're building the muscle memory in the country so that we can execute well," Landrieu said.

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Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Bernadette Baum

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