Federal Funding


Federal programs can provide significant funding for local green infrastructure programs. Federal funding can come in the form of competitive grants or formula programs.See footnote 1  that local governments are already likely to be receiving. Grant funding may provide a local government with the resources to implement green infrastructure projects. However, federal grants can be highly competitive, may require lengthy application, are limited in size and scope, and often are awarded on a one-time basis. Many federal grants require a funding match from state or local sources for some percentage of the awarded funds. Some funding sources also prohibit the use of grant funding for operations and maintenance expenses. Local governments that use grant funding for green infrastructure installation should take these factors into account and recognize the importance of identifying additional funding streams to support on-going expenditures.See footnote 2

Local governments can expand opportunities for federal funding by designing green infrastructure projects in ways that maximize particular co-benefits. For example, designing bioswales with native plants may provide eligibility for wildlife conservation or pollinator grant funding (e.g., State Wildlife Grant Programs, funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).See footnote 3  Similarly, green infrastructure can be included in local programs that already receive or apply for federal funding, such as transportation projects or disaster recovery plans.

This toolkit covers several types of federal funds in more detail below: 1) water quality; 2) economic and community development; 3) disaster recovery; and 4) transportation. Within each substantive area, some federal funding strategies are competitive grant programs and some are regularly given, formula grant programs.

Water Quality Funding

Green infrastructure projects may be funded by federal programs that support efforts to reduce water pollution and manage stormwater. Programs include the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source ProgramSee footnote 4  and the Urban Waters Small Grants Program (UWSG). Under Section 319 (of the Clean Water Act), EPA provides grant funding to states to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff and other sources; EPA recognizes the “importance of green infrastructure … in managing stormwater” has made clear that funds can be used for green infrastructure projects.See footnote 5   EPA’s UWSG Program focuses on improving the quality of urban waters and stimulating neighborhood revitalization in underserved communities, and can be used specifically for innovative or new green infrastructure practices.

Economic and Community Development Funding

Community development money can be used to fund green infrastructure because these projects can create jobs, increase economic activity, and increase property values. Urban tree planting can increase economic activity in a commercial district.See footnote 6   Additionally, green infrastructure can increase property values by mitigating flooding, improving neighborhood aesthetics, and providing other co-benefits.See footnote 7  As a result, green infrastructure can be funded using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funding (formula funding), administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Disaster Recovery Funding

Local governments eligible for disaster recovery and relief funding following a presidentially declared disaster may be able to use this federal funding to pay for green infrastructure projects. Many local governments have included green infrastructure in disaster recovery and rebuilding plans to mitigate flood risk and manage stormwater. The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides post-disaster federal aid to states to mitigate the risks of future disasters and can fund flood mitigation projects, including acquisition and relocation of flood-prone properties and soil stabilization projects like the installation of vegetative buffer strips.See footnote 8  The Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program also provides federal aid to states post-disaster, and funds can be used for a variety of community development activities that benefit low- and moderate-income individuals, reduce blight, or address an urgent community need. In rehabilitating housing and constructing public amenities, cities may be able to incorporate green infrastructure techniques (like street trees and permeable pavements) in street design.

Transportation Funding

Green infrastructure projects are often eligible for transportation funding because they improve transportation networks by efficiently and cost-effectively mitigating street and alley flooding.See footnote 9  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) provides funding for “transportation alternatives,” including “off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation.” TAP funding could be used to pay for green infrastructure components of trails and sidewalks such as permeable pavements.See footnote 10  The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program allocates federal funding for infrastructure projects that reduce congestion and improve air quality.See footnote 11  Bicycle transportation and pedestrian walkways are eligible uses of the money, and can be designed to include green infrastructure features, such as permeable surfaces for trails, and bioswales and bioretention for areas adjacent to trail surfaces. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program funds investments in road, rail, transit and port projects. TIGER grants have been awarded to projects that included green infrastructure components.See footnote 12 



Formula Programs

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program

Nonpoint Source Program

Urban Waters Small Grants Program

Hazard Mitigation Assistance

Chicago Green Alleys

Transportation Alternatives Program

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program


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