Cabinet secretaries can waive cost-sharing for select infrastructure projects in bipartisan bill

The bill now being debated in the Senate grants such authority to the leaders of at least three agencies – the EPA, Agriculture Department and Transportation Department.

Updated: August 3, 2021 - 12:38pm

The heads of certain federal agencies have the authority to waive cost-sharing rules and use taxpayer funds to cover the full cost of infrastructure projects in communities that meet specific requirements in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“The Secretary of Agriculture may waive the cost-sharing requirement under clause (i) for a project that serves an underserved community,” according to the text of the infrastructure bill that the Senate is debating.

The legislation also allows the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to distribute grants up to $25 million for select green infrastructure projects that serve a community with a “population of fewer than 10,000 individuals” or a community that “meets the affordability criteria established by the state in which the community is located.”

According to the bill, the EPA administrator can unilaterally raise the federal cost burden from 90% to 100% for qualified infrastructure projects.

“The Administrator may increase the Federal share under subparagraph (A) to 100 percent if the Administrator determines that an eligible entity is unable to pay, or would experience significant financial hardship if required to pay, the non-Federal share,” reads the text of the legislation.

“At the discretion of the Administrator, a grant for a project described in subparagraph (A) may cover 100 percent of the total cost of the proposed project,” the bill reads.

The Secretary of Transportation “may increase the Federal share requirement” to 100 percent for projects "carried out by an eligible entity that demonstrates economic hardship," as specifically determined by the secretary.

"An individual grant under this section shall not exceed $15,000,000," reads the bill. "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a project assisted under this section shall be treated as a project on a Federal-aid highway under chapter 1 of title 23, United States Code."