Driving Investment Through the Community Project Funding Proposal
The thing I love the most about Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the sense of community, especially in challenging times. As a proud alumni staffer of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, one of the most touching events I witnessed while working there happened on one of The Partnership’s annual DMDC trip.
Back in 2008, DSM was once again devastated by flooding. The disaster kept several City of Des Moines officials and leaders home from the annual DMDC trip, even though they had significant requests into Congress to help fund crucial investments in infrastructure and quality of life amenities. Instead of letting the need of those projects go untold, city council members from DSM’s regional communities presented the projects in their absence to the Congressional staff that oversaw appropriations. This is even more noteworthy because both cities had funding requests, but also understood how each other’s projects benefited DSM as a whole.
Of course, Congress was different back in 2008. Congressionally-directed funds, aka “earmarks,” were common in Congressional legislation and enabled Senators and Congressmen and women to help decide what projects provided the biggest benefit to their home districts.
Throughout the years, earmarks had been used for projects like the Science Center of Iowa, along with countless roads, bridges and infrastructure projects that are vital to our daily lives. Earmarks were a bipartisan tool for economic development, and our Iowa delegation from both sides of the political aisle were able to utilize them to drive needed investment.
The earmark process was banned in 2011. However, the federal government has not spent less money since then, the spending authority has instead shifted to the departments instead of the elected members of Congress. While there are good and passionate people that work in the various departments in D.C., they may not fully understand the local level in each Congressional district and where the dollars can have the most impact.
The Partnership’s annual DMDC trip has carried on successfully since the earmark ban but learning how to find and advocate for funding that can be brought back to Iowa is much more challenging. Iowa business and community leaders have had to make more pleas with department heads, and it is easy to be drowned out by larger metro regions because the department staff often has no ties or familiarity with Iowa.
Community Project Funding
However, earmarks may return in 2021 with a new U.S. House proposal that outlines guidelines for “Community Project Funding.” The Community Project Funding (CPF) proposal allows Members of Congress to directly focus on the most needed projects in their communities. Each member may submit up to 10 projects in their district to the Appropriation Committee for consideration for funding. CPF will be available to state, local, tribal and territorial governments and must show evidence of community support and need for the projects. The evidence can take the form of support letters from stakeholders, local planning documents, letters to the editor and other community supporting documentation.
To ensure transparency and accountability, other requirements include a call for all requests to be posted online. Members must not only certify there is no financial interest for them or their immediate family members, but also ensure no for-profit recipients will receive funding and understand that while each Member is allowed up to 10 community projects, only a few may actually be funded. It should also be noted that this remains a U.S. House proposal.
Iowa has been fortunate to have Congressional members and staff, both past and present, that are accessible and always willing to listen to what is happening on the ground in their district. They deserve the opportunity to provide suggestions on federal spending and where it can have the most economic impact.
With or without the Community Project Funding, I am already looking forward to DMDC 2021, set for Wednesday, Sept. 22 – Friday, Sept. 24. There is nothing quite like it, and no better way to work together with community leaders on initiatives that can have a lasting impact in DSM.
I encourage those that have never attended DMDC to consider it. You don’t have to be a policy expert or have a Congressional ask. You can simply champion the community and choose priority projects to lend your voice to throughout the trip.
And as a former staffer that has now experienced the trip as a regular attendee, I can promise you it is even more fun as an attendee because The Partnership staff works around the clock to make it a one-of-a-kind experience for you.
I hope to see you in D.C.
The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.