As Infrastructure Work Ramps Up, IA Communities Can Pitch In
Monday, March 7, 2022
Iowa is poised to receive $5 billion from the new federal infrastructure law. And separate grant opportunities are available to help spur smaller, community improvement projects as bigger ones take shape.
AARP is accepting applications for its annual Community Challenge grant program. Local governments and nonprofits can seek small grants for quick-turnaround projects designed to make their towns and cities more livable.
A new category involves leveraging money from the infrastructure law or the American Rescue Plan. Connie Eastman, associate state director of community outreach for AARP Iowa, said it aligns with the past work they've funded.
"The majority of them have been to improve public spaces," said Eastman, "but we've also had a handful going to transportation, housing and some civic participation efforts."
The recent federal programs prioritize such areas as broadband expansion, water infrastructure and climate resiliency.
The deadline for the Community Challenge grants is March 22. AARP says the process isn't as onerous as traditional grant applications, and can be completed online.
Brooke Prouty, the director of Uptown Marion - A Main Street Iowa District, helped secure a recent Community Challenge grant for a handful of electric three-wheel bikes local residents can rent. She said this helps seniors get out to enjoy local parks and stay healthy.
"Our community isn't quite big enough for a scooter or a rent-a-bike program," said Prouty. "And so, this is kind of our spin on it, to specifically help a population become more mobile."
With roads and bridges seeing more upgrades thanks to the federal funds, Community Challenge leaders hope they're complemented with projects like improved signage.
Since it started five years ago, the initiative has funded 17 improvement projects in Iowa communities, with the average grant size around $10,000.
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