MONTPELIER — Vermont’s drinking and wastewater loan funds will get a $63 million infusion from the federal government.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced the funds on Thursday in a joint statement.
The money is from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed by President Joe Biden in November.
The state’s normal allocation for the funds is about $15.8 million, making funding through the programs in 2022 around $80 million.
Eric Blatt, director of engineering in the Water Investment Division of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, said Friday that the funds are distributed between several categories. Vermont is getting $30 million for lead service line replacement, $8 million for emerging contaminants including but not limited to PFAS and PFOA chemicals. Some of the categories for drinking and wastewater are for general improvements.
These funds are not to be confused with money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Blatt said. There’s no time limit to allocate them.
“It’s not like ARPA where we have a very short period of time, this is more like traditional (state revolving funds), we’re not expected to disperse the money in rapid fashion, this will be paced,” he said.
While these funds are for loans, there are requirements that a percentage of them be treated as subsidies, effectively making them grants, according to Blatt.
“I expect that we’ll see an increased volume in projects and it could well be the limiting factor may be just the construction trades not being able to keep up with all of the projects we have on our list,” Blatt said. “I think part of this is the subsidy provisions that go along with this will probably spur more projects than simply the magnitude of dollars.”
City of Montpelier Deputy Director of Public Works, Kurt Motyka, said Friday there are two projects the city has in line for funding through this program.
“We’re already preparing preliminary engineering reports through the Clean Water SRF program which queues you up for eligibility and I have spoken with DEC about these projects and we have gotten about a $1.2 million grant for the (combined sewer overflow) component of the East State Street reconstruction project,” he said. “And we’re hoping for additional funding through SRF for that project. It’s a $7.2 million project.”
Rutland City Mayor David Allaire said state revolving loan funds have been used by the city in the past.
“I certainly would say at the outset that we would have a very high interest in that,” he said. “We have a lot of needs here in the city, so my guess is that our Public Works commissioner, Jim Rotondo, is no doubt looking at that right now as we speak and thinking about the projects he’s looking forward to doing here in the next couple of years.”
The city will likely look to ARPA funding first for its water projects, as that’s a category that most obviously qualifies and the funds aren’t a loan.
Leahy said in a statement that better water and wastewater infrastructure will help alleviate other needs such as housing.
“Vermonters across the state have expressed a desire for vibrant, walkable downtowns, where people can step outside their doors and walk to local businesses,” he stated. “Realizing that vision requires precisely the infrastructure that these investments will fund.”
Leahy is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“The historic investments included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, in addition to the American Rescue Plan, offer Vermont a once in a generation opportunity to invest in our water and sewer infrastructure, which is key to economic growth and ensuring safe and healthy communities,” stated Scott. He thanked Leahy and the rest of the state’s Congressional delegation for their work. “My administration has made these kinds of investments a top priority, and because of their work, we will be able to have a huge impact on communities in all 14 counties, helping them build back more prosperous and resilient.”