IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute and Center for Rural Engagement are partnering to create the Indiana Resilience Funding Hub to help Indiana communities with less than 50,000 residents secure federal funding for sustainability-focused projects.
Cody Smith, community resilience and outreach coordinator at the Environmental Resilience Institute, said the project will use IU’s resources, including grant writers and environmental experts, to help rural communities apply for federal grant money. Due to the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the federal government is providing billions of dollars to communities for projects to increase sustainability and fight climate-change-related issues.
“There’s a dichotomy of being the most vulnerable to the impacts of flooding, extreme heat, extreme weather, and not having the resources needed to organize projects and pursue federal funding,” Smith said.
Jacob Simpson, community resilience liaison for the Center for Rural Engagement, said the hub will help applicant communities better implement funding by connecting them with technical experts and environmental experts focused on how climate change will specifically impact Indiana. Projects could include installing green-energy projects, constructing flood barriers or updating pre-existing infrastructure.
According to a 2022 study conducted by IU researchers, 78% of surveyed towns and cities in Indiana cited a lack of financial resources and funding as a barrier to receiving these grants. Additionally, 53% of these towns and cities said a lack of staff impacted their ability to apply for grants.
“If a community doesn’t have the funding initially to even think about what a project could be, or the ability of investing the time required, then they won’t be able to take advantage of any funding opportunities,” Simpson said.
With funding from the Rural Climate Partnership and the Energy Foundation, the hub will hire one community funding specialist and four IU students who are McKinney Fellows, a program for students interested in climate or sustainability-based careers.