(The Center Square) - The Washington State Public Works Board recently approved more than $220 million in funding for local infrastructure projects statewide.

This funding cycle saw 62 applicants who submitted 85 funding requests for a total of $312,224,348 funds to be used for infrastructure statewide. Applications were rated, ranked and awarded conditional loans and grants to 61 different construction projects.

“The Washington State Public Works Board is thrilled to award over $220 million to 51 communities across the state for critical infrastructure projects,” said PWB Chair Kathryn A. Gardow in a statement. “Infrastructure is fundamental to community resiliency and livability. This current funding cycle is over-subscribed by 29%, so we know the demand for infrastructure funding is significant. We look forward to opening another funding cycle to help meet this demand.”

The funding will be coming primarily in the form of construction loans. The Revised Code of Washington 43.155.050 allows for up to “10 percent of the biennial capital budget appropriation to the public works board … may be expended or obligated as grants for preconstruction, emergency, capital facility planning, and construction projects.”

The total funding for those 61 projects was $221,469,551 for the 2023 funding cycle. The funding will impact 51 communities.

Those projects break down into three categories: non-distressed, distressed and severely distressed.

Distressed project areas are determined using the following criteria:

A Mean Household Income 25% below state averageA three-year average of county-level unemployment rate 20% above the state’s average (equal to or greater than 7.2%)An Affordability Index between 2-3%A Debt Service Coverage Ratio between 1.1% to 1.19%

Distressed projects must only meet one of the above criteria, severely distressed projects must meet two, with the additional hurdle of the Debt Service Coverage Ratio dropping to 1.09% or lower, and the Affordability Index rising to greater than 3%.

For the Fall 2023 funding cycle, the breakdown was 14 severely distressed projects, 13 distressed projects, with the remainder being non-distressed.

Projects classified as ‘distressed’ are eligible for up to 25% of the total cost of the project in grant funding, up to a maximum of $1 million.

Projects classified as ‘severely distressed’ are eligible for up to 50% of the total cost of the project in grant funding, up to a maximum of $2 million.

“For this cycle, and the preconstruction funding awarded in August 2023, the PWB enacted the 50% grant for severely distressed and 15% for distressed, so as not to over allocate grant dollars, e.g. not to exceed the 10% on grants that is in statute,” Department of Commerce spokesperson Penny Thomas told The Center Square in an email.

There are additional, quite complex, financial restrictions on the loans ensuring that municipalities can carry the debt load of their loan and adhere to the repayment terms, which must be shorter than the expected lifetime of the structure.

Washington State Department of Commerce director Mike Fong notes that, in part due to these restrictions, there always seems to be more demand for funding than there are funds available.

“Washington’s Public Works Board provides a vital source of funding for building infrastructure communities need to thrive and support economic opportunity,” said Fong. “The significant gap between need and available state funds is an ongoing challenge. [...] I will continue to push to ensure these resources are made available across the state.”

For that commitment in the Spring 2024 funding cycle, the PWB anticipates up to $148 million available in the form of grants and loans to qualified entities.

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