Resilient Infrastructure & IIJA: Funding, Timelines, Model Projects

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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5 min
resilient infrastructure
climate resilience
community resilience
cybersecurity
weatherization
communications continuity
smart grid
Ellory Monks

Lover of infrastructure, cities, environment. Also: women engineers, Rice University. Co-Founder of @TheAtlas4Cities & 2x mom.

The $47.2 billion budgeted for climate and cyber resilience in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is the first significant federal investment in resilience. The historic investment is a response to the growing impacts of climate change – and cyber attacks – and represents a bipartisan acknowledgement of the widespread physical, economic and social costs of climate change in the United States. In 2021 alone, weather and climate disasters cost the United States over $100 billion. Cyber-attacks on state and local governments are becoming more frequent and costly and cause severe disruptions to essential services.

State and local governments are often first-responders to the natural disasters (wildfires, hurricanes and floods) that are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. And while these state and local governments go to extreme lengths to protect their residents and communities in times of crisis, many of them are unable to make the long-term, strategic investments in resilient infrastructure necessary to reduce the damage caused by natural disasters when they occur.

The $47.2 billion for resilient infrastructure included in IIJA is a significant opportunity for state and local governments to make strategic, long-term investments in the physical infrastructure required for climate resilience as well as the digital infrastructure required for cyber resilience.

This section includes programs relevant to resilient infrastructure in the Infrastructure Deal. We also outline the relative speed at which state and local governments can expect to see the money for these types of projects.

Importantly, the section includes case studies from state and local governments who have successfully implemented resilient infrastructure projects in their communities. These examples execute on goals similar to those outlined in the legislation.

Funding Priorities for Resilient Infrastructure included in IIJA

  1. Climate Resilience – The reauthorized Building Resilient Infrastructure in Communities grants will help state and local governments implement projects to build resilience for systems – physical, natural, cyber – vulnerable to climate change impacts. It will also fund projects that introduce nature-based solutions for climate mitigation.
  2. Weatherization – The newly established PROTECT formula fund will support projects that improve resilience to weather events and natural disasters. It funds strategies and transportation systems for evacuation routes, protection for at-risk coastal infrastructure against sea level rise, and enables community resilience.
  3. Community Resilience – The newly established PROTECT competitive grant program enables communities to assess vulnerabilities and plan infrastructure improvements. It will fund emergency response strategies to address community needs for weather events or natural disasters.
  4. Cyber Security – IIJA provides $1 billion over the next four years to combat cyber threats and enhance cybersecurity grant programs.

Working together, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make broadband available for underserved communities and students.
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Relevant Resilient Infrastructure Programs in IIJA & Speed of Distribution

The money that state and local governments should see fastest for resilient infrastructure is from BRIC, a reauthorized grant program that is receiving additional funding as a part of IIJA:

  • Reauthorized Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $1 Billion
  • Recipients: State and local governments and utilities, states that have had a major disaster in the past seven years

Next, state and local governments are likely to see money from newly established competitive grant programs. This money tends to move more slowly because the criteria, review and selection process takes longer than topping up reauthorized programs. For resilient infrastructure, that includes:

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $7.3 Billion
  • Recipients: State DOTs

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $1.3 Billion
  • Recipients: States, units of local government, public authorities with transportation function, Tribal nations

Model Resilient Infrastructure Projects to Prioritize for IIJA Funding

Although the $47.2 billion going towards resilient infrastructure is significant, state and local governments should think of it as a down payment. In 2018, the National Climate Assessment estimated that adapting to climate change would ultimately cost “tens to hundreds of billions of dollars per year.” That means the influx of money will only cover the initial implementation for climate resilient projects.

When it comes to climate resilience, state and local governments would be wise to prioritize projects that are forward-looking in reducing emissions, addressing sea-level rise or preventing wildfires and floods. Right now, government leaders are thinking about ways to maintain operating costs for the resilient infrastructure projects they bring to their communities – and if they’re not already, they should be.

This section includes a list of resilient infrastructure case studies from state and local governments who have successfully achieved these goals in their communities. Our hope is that they 1) inspire state and local government leaders to plan beyond the initial influx of federal money and 2) serve as models for impactful climate resilient projects to put forward for IIJA funding.

Flood Resilience

As a high-risk flood area, Virginia Beach needed to plan for sea-level rise and address pervasive long-term flood threats. Joining together with other local municipalities, the city implemented a water level sensor system that collects data to improve forecasting efforts and inform citizens of flooding risk.

Local Gov Case Study

Wildfire Resilience

In April 2018, the Badger Hole Wildfire came through Manter, Kansas. With a large population of farmers, the threat of fire was devastating to businesses countywide. Because of the town’s emergency notification system, citizens were able to band together to act quickly and minimize fire damage.

Local Gov Case Study

Extreme Heat Resilience

As the hottest city in America, Phoenix, Arizona, has been hit hard by climate change. Climate inequity has left some neighborhoods feeling the impacts more than others. Addressing the gap, the city pursued a community-informed plan to combat the heat island effect and better serve its constituents.

Local Gov Case Study

Drought Resilience

Residents of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation faced water shortages and contaminated water. Using solar-powered water collection systems, the community now has access to 160 gallons of drinking water produced per day.

Local Gov Case Study

Cybersecurity

Contra Costa County has 28 government agencies, each with different cyber needs, leaving their cybersecurity decentralized. After completing a CIS18 framework analysis, the county set a long-term strategy to develop cyber resilience.

Local Gov Case Study

After a devastating cyberattack, Atlanta organized a plan to prevent future attacks by making cybersecurity the foundation of its activities, increasing investment in cloud storage, and partnering with organizations to aid preparation and response to cyberthreats.

Local Gov Case Study

After city operations were severely compromised by a 2009 cyber attack, the City of Durham, NC took measures to institute cybersecurity training and protocols. These measures greatly strengthened

Local Gov Case Study

New Orleans, LA

In December 2019, the City of New Orleans fell victim to a cyberattack. Recovery lasted for months and was further delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city not only implemented their disaster preparedness plan, but also used the opportunity to modernize their data platforms and accelerate tech adoption.

Local Gov Case Study

We hope these case studies inspire you and demonstrate the scale and type of community impacts that are possible with the resilience investments included in IIJA. Want to see more? Browse resilience case studies in The Atlas case study database.

Next up: Energy Infrastructure & IIJA: Funding, Timelines, Model Projects


Author’s Note: Rachel Angulo (Content Marketing Manager at The Atlas) provided writing and research support to this section. Mark Funkhouser (Former Mayor of Kansas City, MO), Shalini Vajjhala (Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center) and Erik Caldwell (Director of Data Strategy at The Atlas and former Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the City of San Diego) generously reviewed this section.

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