3 Insights Into Public Sector Use of Federal Funding for Facilities Projects

The last two years have seen an unprecedented amount of federal funding funneled to states, counties, cities, towns, school districts and other public entities. There’s been nothing like it in recent memory. There was the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) and The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) to aid communities with pandemic response and recovery. ARP included $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, giving K-12 districts access to critical funding that can be used for updating, renovating and reopening schools. More recently, the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) promises much-needed financial support and relief to strained communities.

This outpouring of federal funding, while welcome, highlights the ongoing challenges public sector procurement officials must navigate to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Cycle times to distribute these funds are considerably short, passing as quickly as 20 weeks. Thus, procurement officials must stay on their toes and position themselves to take advantage of every opportunity. That’s not easy, given the red tape and regulatory requirements involved in accessing and allocating federal funds.

But just how difficult is it for front-line civil servants to use this funding? And given the opportunity to harness the federal government’s support, what needs would local leaders address? Gordian recently partnered with Government Business Council (GBC), the research division of GovExec, to answer these questions and more through a survey of 200 state and local government and education professionals from across the United States.

You can read the complete results of that survey and actionable analysis in this free playbook. In the meantime, here are a few insights that shed light on the degree to which public sector leaders are taking advantage of federal funding.

Unused Federal Funding Abounds

While some survey respondents – particularly those at the county level – report using all of their federal funding, the majority have only used a portion of the funding available to them. 65% of state respondents and 46% of their city/municipality counterparts have accessed some funding but have yet to make use of all the financial support at their disposal. There’s plenty of money left on the table.

The response from the K-12 sector is noteworthy to say the least. 67% of respondents said they have not received federal funding, while another 16% report using only some of the federal aid available to them. That’s troubling news, given the state of America’s chronically underfunded schools.

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When asked about using state grants, respondents delivered answers that are consistent with their use of federal funds. County governments again led the way, approximately half of state and city/municipal respondents reported using some state grants and the education sector lagged far behind.

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These mixed results beg the question: Why not? Why aren’t school districts and governments using all of the federal funding they can?

Funding Uncertainty Permeates the Public Sector

When asked what has prevented them from receiving federal funding or state grants, survey respondents overwhelmingly identified one of two reasons. 45% of public sector leaders reported being unsure which projects would qualify for funding and 43% were unsure how to comply with regulations related to federal funding.

See all of the survey questions and answers, and get our full slate of actionable insights by downloading our free playbook, produced in partnership with GovExec.


Infrastructure Needs Are Everywhere

When determining the best possible use of federal funds and state grants, it is incumbent upon public sector leaders to clearly understand their immediate and long-term needs. They can then align those needs with the funding sources that enable them to meet those needs the fastest.

For our survey respondents, the prevailing need is infrastructure.

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84% of public sector leaders said state and federal funding could help them build or reinforce infrastructure projects. This finding tracks with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest report card, which graded U.S. infrastructure at a C-. The ASCE notes that 43% of public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition and that the U.S. loses an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water each day because a water main breaks every two minutes. Funding could help local leaders shore up these deficiencies.

Other needs of note include improving aging facilities and managing the deferred maintenance backlog, and keeping staff at a tenable level.

Access our federal funding playbook and other helpful funding-related content in this resource hub.

Helping the Public Sector Navigate the Complex Procurement Environment

These survey results paint an unfortunate picture for the public sector. The federal government is answering the call to aid state and local leaders, but accessing and using federal funding is so incredibly complicated that those leaders are opting out. The funding they need appears to be just out of their grasp, walled off from them by a staggering amount of red tape.

So, what are governments and public school districts to do?

Gordian offers several solutions to help the public sector act as reasonable and transparent stewards of federal funding and maintain the physical assets their communities rely on. From facility condition assessments and capital planning solutions that empower decision makers to prioritize needs and risks to Job Order Contracting for transparent project delivery that enables the procurement office to track and report every spending decision, we have the expertise and technology to help public sector leaders leverage federal funding to make the improvements their communities need.

About Gordian

Gordian is the leader in facility and construction cost data, software and services for all phases of the building lifecycle. A pioneer of Job Order Contracting, Gordian’s solutions also include proprietary RSMeans data construction costs and Facility Intelligence Solutions. From planning to design, to procurement, construction and operations, Gordian’s solutions help clients maximize efficiency, optimize cost savings and increase building quality.