8 Tips to Obtain Grants & Loans

Posted by Natalie O'Connor on Friday, August 25, 2023

8 Funding & Loan Tips Graphic
Entech Funny Money
Note: Entech Funny Money is not quite as good as the real stuff.

Right now, there's a lot of money out there – grants, low-interest loans, Entech Funny Money – to fund projects that municipalities, authorities, and utilities desperately need. Our clients became the beneficiaries of more than $60 million in the past year alone. More importantly, our Funding Team has learned so much about turning our clients' infrastructure dreams into reality so we're sharing it with you! Here are our top tips to successfully secure your grant or loan:

1. It's foolish NOT to apply for a grant or loan.

More than 90% of the paperwork and effort required to assemble a grant package must be completed anyway, so if you’re serious about a project, why not get help paying for it? Plus, obtaining funding puts deadlines in place so the entire planning and potentially the design process needed for infrastructure improvements will be completed rather than sit on a back burner when other emergencies hit.

2. There are agencies and opportunities you don't even know about.

We have achieved "hero" status with a few of our clients who were unaware of grants, or didn't think they were eligible, and can now not only fund necessities but also wish list items for which they never knew they would qualify. It's tough to stay up-to-date with all of the organizations or know which funding opportunities are the best match for your project, or who to contact when you have questions. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (PADCED) has a grant and funding search.

3. Patience, flexibility, and managing expectations are critical.

Nobody can predict the future. So we never know who's Wish List will be granted, or how many utilities will go after certain funds, or even when some grants will be awarded. We keep tabs on what types of projects have the greatest rates of success for our clients, and have a LOT of data from over the years to help our clients make informed decisions. But some agencies plan to make awards, then politics behind the scenes delays that money from going out. And these delays can stack up. We've seen agencies delay awards at consecutive meetings, which may only occur quarterly, which can mean a lot of waiting for you. Our best advice is if you have a project that demands immediate attention, like an emergency repair or a consent order dictating the work, find out which programs reliably award funding, and shy away from the unpredictable, politically driven ones. And if funding doesn't come through, have alternate plans in place to move forward.

4. Don't underestimate the power of a loan.

A client was really disappointed when their $4.0 million PENNVEST application resulted in no grant money, but instead, they were offered a low-interest loan of 1.0%. With interest rates rising, we looked at the big picture and compared various financing options for their project.

Loan Comparrison Chart
It turned out that the amount of money they'll save over the course of a 20-year 1% PENNVEST loan is almost $500,000 compared to the next best option (a PENNVEST Cap Rate loan at 2.07% for their County). That's $500K of savings or free money... just like a grant! And if you take their $4.0 million in funding and compare what they'll pay over the total life of the loan to a regular bank loan, they save more than $1.7 million. They felt much better about their PENNVEST loan once they saw these numbers.

5. Think outside the box (or lines in this case!)

Consider work outside of the classic water main or sewer line replacements. Can you look at alternatives to avoid traditional dig and replace? Do your treatment byproducts have any energy or reclamation value? Can you combine several projects into one or broaden the scope of work to reach a higher value and be eligible for other programs? Our Ed Pietroski always says, "Go big or go home," because if you're going to put forth the effort, it makes sense to get as much work done as possible to take advantage of the economies of scale in construction projects.

6. Relationships matter.

Entech is committed to building relationships, not only with our clients but with the agencies with whom we work. We have developed a rapport with many of the funding agencies, which allows us to get answers and advice more readily. The agencies sometimes struggle to give away their money (hard to believe!), so maintaining an open dialogue with their staff can give you a leg up on new or upcoming programs.

7. Be politically savvy.

Loysville WWTP Grant Tour

The odds of obtaining certain funding can greatly increase by networking with local and state politicians. Be sure you know them and their staff, and that they know you. Invite them out to your plant to understand the importance of your facility in the community, and see for themselves how critical your projects are for future growth or sustainability. Then help them shine when you do get the funding. Our Tim Lester, PE, did just that for PA Senator Bob Casey, Jr. at the Loysville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Perry County, which was just awarded $8.43 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for desperately needed upgrades.

8. Be smart.

You never truly know what aspects of a project or funding application could influence the decision-makers, but with some knowledge, planning, and a sound strategy, you can increase your odds with these tips. Of course, we are always eager to help too! Make our Funding Team part of your Team. Contact me with your questions, or if you have additional tips to share, I'd love to hear them.


Natalie O'Connor Photo

Natalie O'Connor

funding & compliance specialist

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Categories: Municipal Infrastructure

Tagged: Potable Water  |  Wastewater  |  Municipal Engineering  |  Stormwater  |  Budgeting & Funding

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