Federal Funding Outlook

Ari Neumann, RCAP Policy Director

Legislative update for NL

As of press time, the federal funding outlook for the new fiscal year, set to begin October 1, is murky at best. The Senate and the House have each passed Continuing Resolutions that would keep the government open until the end of the year so that they can pass regular appropriations bills. However, the House version contains a ban on funding for the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), while the Senate version fully funds the ACA’s implementation.

The two sides are fundamentally opposed, and as of now, it is not clear how the stalemate will be resolved. We expect there to be last-minute negotiations that will hopefully lead to some resolution, but there may well be a government shutdown in early October.

In the event that there is a shutdown, all non-essential government functions will temporarily cease. USDA Rural Development state and area offices will be closed, and EPA, USDA-RD, HUD, and other federal employees will be forced to stay home. So, federal agencies that normally provide funds for rural infrastructure will not be able to process applications for the duration of the shutdown.

Depending on how the funding dispute is resolved—whether the government is shut down or not—we expect to see either a Continuing Resolution or the full slate of appropriations bills passed this fall that will fund the government for Fiscal Year 2014. Then, we will start the budget and appropriations processes again next January for Fiscal Year 2015 (beginning Oct. 1, 2014). Once Congress provides some certainty about spending levels for the next year, agencies will begin to process applications again and proceed with the development of rural infrastructure projects.

Since most infrastructure projects are long-term in nature, we encourage communities to continue the planning process so that you are ready when the fiscal situation is resolved. As federal funds become scarcer, those communities who are best prepared stand the best chance of receiving limited funds. And, as always, we encourage you to look for funding from state and local governments, as well as private sources of capital (where available) to supplement the costs borne by the ratepayers.

The federal funding picture is murky, but regardless of how the current spending debate is resolved, the federal budget as a share of the national economy is almost certain to shrink over the next decade. That will mean less money from the federal government for water infrastructure and an emphasis on direct and guaranteed loans, rather than grants.

Quality Training to Revitalize Communities and Sustain Jobs in the Water Sector

Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions

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RCAP Solutions is the northeast member of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) with headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts and onsite drinking water and wastewater technical assistance specialists and trainers throughout the Northeastern United States and Caribbean.  All RCAP specialists utilize state and federal funding to work onsite with small rural drinking water and wastewater systems to effect four community outcomes:

a)      Improved environmental and community health

b)      Compliance with federal and state regulations

c)      Sustainable water and waste disposal facilities

d)      Increased capability of local leaders to address current and future needs.

For years, RCAP personnel have documented the unique challenges that small systems face in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state standards.  These challenges can include but are not limited to a lack of financial resources and customer base, aging infrastructure, management limitations, and high staff turnover.  RCAP offers educational outreach to small systems to raise awareness of technical, managerial, and financial issues.  These RCAP tools, resources and methods assist system personnel and their boards to successfully operate and manage the system while addressing some of the barriers mentioned above.

Within the past year or so, RCAP has developed and released the following documents, materials and training programs that support economic and workforce initiatives:

  • An infographic on how Water Infrastructure Creates Jobs is available for free download here.
  • Color Brochures for recruiting new drinking water and wastewater operators to the water sector.  These brochures encourage those who are entering the workforce or those looking for a career change to consider a job in drinking water/wastewater operations.  These brochures highlight the benefits of jobs in the water sector, the education  and training experience needed and are suitable for distribution at high school and college career fairs, community colleges, technical schools and programs that help veterans find work.  These brochures are available at www.rcap.org/opcareers.
  • Wastewater Training Modules for Operators of Small Systems- intended primarily for training contact hours/CEUs or precertification training, there are 12-14 modules newly developed for entry level operators on a variety of topics including Wastewater Chemistry, Overview of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Program, Energy Efficiency, Overview of Wastewater, Lagoons and Ponds, Preliminary and Primary Treatment, Wastewater Sampling and Preservation, Wastewater Disinfection, Introduction to Wastewater Plant Instrumentation and Monitoring, Wastewater Math for Operators, and a number of other topics.  Learning objectives, exercises, assessment and evaluation are core elements of these modules and characteristic of the RCAP approach. Seven of these modules were developed by RCAP Solutions and its qualified contractor Cotton Environmental.   All the training modules were developed around the most recent findings from the Association of Boards of Certification Need-to Know Critera for Wastewater Treatment Operators. In order to access our operator training materials, we encourage you to sign up for an RCAP Solutions training or contact us about setting up events near you.
  • Our first RCAP Solutions Summer Series Operator Training Tour was a success! Full day workshops were held in South Burlington, Vermont; Rutland, Vermont; Concord, New Hampshire and Worcester, Massachusetts.  The morning trainings consisted of the Clean Water Act & NPDES Program, Overview of Wastewater Treatment and Discharge Monitoring Reports.  The afternoon sessions consisted of the Intro to Chemistry and Wastewater Sampling and Preservation.  In addition, local officials and managers from surrounding municipalities were invited to a sponsored Lunch and Learn to learn more about wastewater characteristics and stream standards so that they are better informed to effectively manage their system.  In all, approximately 40 individuals attended the trainings with representatives from 14 communities with Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWS) and over 21 operators.  A review of pre and post-test scores for the attendees notes an overall improvement in understanding of basic concepts at the conclusion of the event and all attendees noted that the workshops met their expectations, and that class participation was encouraged and that the presenter(s) demonstrated knowledge of the topic and good presentation skills.  Many attendees noted that they would attend RCAP Solutions trainings again and found the material and video demonstrations quite useful.
  • RCAP has also released a new series of wastewater focused videos that highlight wastewater collection systems, small on-site wastewater treatment systems, energy efficiency, and preparing for emergencies for operators.  This compliments a series of videos already produced by RCAP  on wastewater processes for non-operators.  All these videos can be found here:  www.rcap.org/dwwwtreatment and www.rcap.org/newresources .

There are many additional materials and programs that have not been mentioned here.  Our goal was to highlight some newer materials that have recently been developed courtesy of our various funders.  All operator training workshops, modules, and videos were presented and funded as a part of the EPA/RCAP Training and Technical Assistance for Small, Publicly Owned WW Systems, Onsite/Decentralized Wastewater Systems and Private Well Owners to Improve Water Quality Project 2012-2013. Please contact Sukh Singh, Director of Education and Training for information about these materials at ssingh@rcapsolutions.org or 814.861.7072.

Community Resources – A New Year of Programming

Scott Mueller, Director of Community Resources and Chief Rural Affairs Officer

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RCAP Solutions is now entering a new year of programming – with many great programs and technical assistance services to offer!
We are pleased to announce that we have once again been awarded funding to provide technical assistance to small rural and underserved communities from both USDA Rural Development and Health and Human Services. We also provide services under a direct contract, allowing delivery of more refined project development, management, and financial services.

In many cases, if the community project is eligible, RCAP Solutions can subsidize costs and work with communities to create an effective and affordable approach. We can also assist with the many aspects of project development, including asset management plans, developing sanitary surveys, and Title Five inspections in Massachusetts.

As rural communities face increasing financial challenges it becomes more important than ever to manage your community infrastructure and assets properly, to forecast projects and associated costs in advance in order to make those services affordable. Developing an infrastructure master plan can be helpful in this area, as well as for state and federal agencies that provide funding assistance. A long term relationship can be built to maintain compliance and proper planning for new and existing infrastructure upgrades, as well as funding assistance.

We look forward to serving your community.  Please visit our new website www.rcapsolutions.org for more details or call Scott Mueller, Director of Community Resources and Chief Financial Officer at 315-482-2756.

Come Visit Us At The Expo!

RCAP ExpoRCAP Solutions will be once again participating as an exhibitor at the Central Mass Business Expo, hosted by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Expo is Wednesday, October 2, 2013, held at the DCU Center, 344 Worcester Street, Worcester.  Click here for map and directions.

Come visit our booth, #706, RIGHT next to the Event Room Entrance!

So when you attend one of the fabulous events planned throughout the day, including presentations by  John Jacobs, Co-founder of Life is Good; William “Mo” Cowan, Former U.S. Senator; or Dave Barger, President and CEO of JetBlue; stop by and say hello!

Pictured above is Ili Spahiu, Small Business Development and Loan Manager; Maegen McCaffrey, Chief Communications Officer; Karen A. Koller, President & CEO; and Brian Scales, Chief Development & Governmental Affairs Officer, just part of the RCAP Solutions gang that attended during the 2012 expo.

 

One in Five Households Unable to Meet Basic Needs

logo-topA new U.S. Census Bureau report finds that the overall well-being of U.S. households has improved since 1992, as measured by a broad range of categories. At the same time, the percentage of households experiencing difficulty meeting basic needs, including housing, rose from 14% to 16% between 2005 and 2011.

 

Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States summarizes findings from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which compared 2011 data to earlier years. SIPP probes households’ well-being across five broad areas: possession of household goods; housing conditions; neighborhood conditions; ability to meet basic needs; and expectation of help from family or friends.

According to the report, 22% of households had difficulty meeting at least one basic need in 2011. To make this determination, the survey took nine indicators into account: inability to meet basic expenses; inability to pay rent or mortgage; eviction; not paying utilities; cut off utilities; cut phone service; lacking access to a doctor or dentist; and food insecurity. In 2011, 9% of households had one hardship and 6% had three or more.

Households in the lowest income quintile were three times more likely to report one difficulty—and five times more likely to report three or more—than households in the highest quintile, measured by monthly reported income. Overall, householders who owned their homes had higher levels of well-being across all five measures, when compared to renters. In total, 92% of homeowners reported no difficulty meeting basic needs; the percentage fell to 80% among renters.

Housing conditions and neighborhood conditions improved from 1992 to 2011, according to the survey. Yet the percentage of households with unpaid rent or mortgages increased in recent years, from approximately 6% to 8% in 2005 and 2011, respectively. This change represents 2.7 million additional households, reflecting shifts during and following the economic downturn.

Original link from the National Low Income Housing Coalition: http://nlihc.org/article/one-five-households-unable-meet-basic-needs

Read Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: http://1.usa.gov/18bJ61I

Help shape the Commonwealth’s housing policy!

MassHousing Invitation 2 092313[3]As a member of the North Central Massachusetts Community Reinvestment Act Coalition, we are pleased to invite you to join us at this upcoming event and help shape the Commonwealth’s housing policy!

Please join the Homeownership Center of North Central Massachusetts and the North Central Ma CRA Coalition for a town hall forum with MassHousing’s Tom Gleason—who wants to hear your thoughts on the opportunities and challenges of providing low and moderate-income housing to our region.

Tom Gleason is a career housing professional with more than 36 years of experience in mortgage lending, community development and bond finance. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MassHousing). 

Click on the image to the left to view the invitation in its full size.

RSVP to Flor Cintron at fcintron@twincitiescdc.org or call her at (978) 342.9561.

Senator Eldridge Visits RCAP Solutions

Massachusetts Senator James B. Eldridge from the Middlesex and Worcester District, visited RCAP Solutions today to tour the new Worcester headquarters, receive an overview of our programs and services with an in depth discussion around the work we do in our Community Resources division, specifically water and wastewater programs.

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Senator Eldridge tours the RCAP Worcester offices.

Pictured from left: Paul Teixeira, Vice President & Chief Program Officer; Brian Scales, Chief Development & Governmental Affairs Officer; Karen A. Koller, President and CEO; Senator James Eldridge, Tunde Baker, Regional Lead for Ma/RI/CT; and James Starbard, Environmental Water and Wastewater Technician.

 

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Senator Eldridge meets with staff members and receives an overview of RCAP Solutions programs.

Our HCEC Counselors Receive New Certifications

HCEC in Training

Congratulations to the members of our Housing Consumer Education Center Team on their recent certifications!

Pictured is Robert Ochoa, Housing Counselor Specialist; Madeline Cotto, HCEC Coordinator and Pam Moshier, Chief Consumer Education Officer and Director of HCEC at the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Philadelphia PA.

Robert and Maddie are now certified in Homebuyer Educaton Methods as Trainers and Pam received Certification in Homeownership Counseling for Program Managers and Executive Directors.

For more information on our Housing Consumer Education Center, please visit our HCEC Page on our website.

About NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling:  NCHEC promotes sustainable homeownership by supporting the industry’s educators and counselors. Through its training programs, professional certifications and other tools and resources, NCHEC increases the number of qualified homeownership professionals who are prepared to help people realize the dream of lifelong homeownership.  Visit their website for more information.

HUD Reports Record-Breaking Worst Case Housing Needs

According to HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs 2011: Report to Congress, the number of renters with worst case housing needs grew to a record 8.48 million in 2011, from a previous high of 7.10 million in 2009. There has been a 43% increase in worst case housing needs since 2007. HUD released the full report on August 16, after having released an executive summary of the report in February (see Memo, 2/22).

“Worst case housing needs” are those of very low income (below 50% of Area Median Income) renters who do not receive government housing assistance and who either spend more than half of their income on rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or who face both of these challenges. The vast majority of households with worst case housing needs have severe housing cost burdens, while 3% live in severely inadequate conditions.

The gap between worst case housing needs and assisted households is the highest ever recorded, with two worst case housing needs households for every one assisted household.

No household type, demographic group, or region was unaffected by the growth of worst case housing needs from 2009 to 2011. Nearly 4 in 10 (38.2%) worst case housing needs households in 2011 were families with children, followed by non-family renters (35%) and the elderly without children (17.3%). While very low income families with children are a high proportion of worst case housing needs households, only one in four very low income families with children receive assistance. Forty-eight percent of new worst case housing needs households were among white, 28% among Hispanic, and 13% among black households.

On the national level, 44% of very low income households have worst case housing needs; this rate is slightly higher in the West and slightly lower in the Northeast and Midwest. Further, the prevalence of worst case housing needs is slightly higher in suburbs and somewhat lower in non-metropolitan areas. Housing assistance plays an important role in reducing worst case housing needs but is relatively less common in suburbs where only 18.4% of very low income households are assisted.

Worst Case Housing Needs 2011 identifies household formation, renter share, renter income losses, renter assistance gap, and affordable unit competition as contributing factors to the growth in worst case housing needs. The likelihood of a very low income renter facing worst case housing needs increased from 41.4% in 2009 to 43.9% in 2011. The increase in worst case housing needs is explained primarily by the increased number of renters. The report suggests that the number of renter households increased because of foreclosures and unemployment, forcing previous homeowners to turn to the rental market. New household formations also added more renters. Together, new household formations and share of renters added 1.38 million in worst case housing needs (53% of the total increase from 2009 to 2011).

Competition for affordable housing also continued to grow—higher income renters occupy 38.4% of the units affordable to ELI renters, 34.4% of the units affordable to VLI renters, and 29.9% of the units affordable to LI renters.

The nation no longer has enough affordable units for renters at the lowest incomes even if allocation were perfect. The vacancy rate for units affordable to ELI households is at an all-time low with just 5.4% vacant (compared to 13.1% in 2009) and this at-risk population faces the tightest market since HUD began to measure worst case housing needs in 1985. The report concluded by raising the importance of housing vouchers to assist the 8.48 million households with worst case housing needs.

This report is the 14th in the series that HUD prepares for Congress using the latest American Housing Survey to discuss trends and causes of worst case housing needs.

The full report is available here: http://bit.ly/YpkP4E

Towns Try to Take Back Water Systems

The Wall Street Journal published an article this week about Municipalities that have recently attempted to gain control of their water systems due to rate increases. Private firms are defending their rate increases, saying they have had to spend money to improve the infrastructure and are entitled to make a profit.

RCAP Solutions is the Northeast affiliate of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a national network of regional nonprofit organizations that provide comprehensive, on-site technical assistance and training to help small, rural communities address their drinking water, wastewater, and other community development needs. We provide services in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

If your community needs assistance managing your water system, or if  you are looking for information on resources available for your community, please visit our Community Resources Page or contact Maegen McCaffrey, Chief Communications Officer at 978-630-6714 or email mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org.

Please click here for the article:  Towns Try to Take Back Water Systems