We have a unique opportunity this semester to partner with a non-profit to recommend how they can position themselves for funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and possibly the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). The non-profit is HELP Initiative, Inc. (HELP) and our primary contacts are Charlie Kistler, Executive Director, and Harold Stafford, Government Relations Director. It is located in Dover, Delaware, but as you will see, they perform work all over the state of Delaware. HELP's Mission is to "improve the quality of life, health, safety and economic prospects of Delaware’s low-income communities and populations" through a variety of methods, mostly focusing on energy. Our job this semester is to explore opportunities under 4 broad climate/energy related areas in the IRA - with a particular focus on addressing issues in disadvantaged communities - and how HELP can position themselves to take advantage of potential funding.
I think it sets us up for a more authentic and satisfying experience if we can do something that has some life outside of this course, and this definitely should. An essential way to consider how to make policy is to investigate the practical ways it can be applied. And there is no better way to do that than to consider how an organization that is already operating in the field can do that. In addition, it is likely that some of you will end up working for a company or organization that will want to take advantage of outside funding sources, and this will help prepare you for that.
You'll be helping to facilitate the implementation of local/state climate and energy policy by helping HELP leverage funding that will be coming down from the federal and state levels - it's all kinds of energy policy and all kinds of geography all at once! Let's get to work!
Examine the provisions described in the Inflation Reduction Act and provide recommendations and guidance to HELP Initiative, Inc. on how to position themselves to take advantage of these funding opportunities in such a way that adheres to and helps accomplishes their Mission. Where do we start!?!?! We'll start with the IRA itself (provisions, goals, etc.) and then investigate how the funding will likely be rolled out and who will be charged with dispersing the funds. Additionally, we'll try to sort out if/how this connects with the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In order to do this, you will perform a little research about HELP's mission, as well as some basic aspects of Delaware's demographics and energy/climate policy regime.
Energy/Climate Areas of Focus in the Inflation Reduction Act
There's a lot to tackle in the IRA, but we're going to approach it based on these five broad areas as described here.
- Lower energy costs
- Increase energy security (Note that we will consider the energy security of individuals in addition to American energy security.)
- Decarbonize the economy
- Focus investment in disadvantaged communities
- Invest in resiliency-building for rural communities
You will choose one of the four following areas to focus on: Lower energy costs, increase energy security, decarbonize the economy, or invest in resiliency-building for rural communities. ALL groups must focus investment in disadvantaged communities, as all HELP initiatives have this focus.
Working (somewhat) independently toward a group deliverable:
At the end of the semester, we'll present our collective findings to members of the HELP Initiative, Inc. While you'll all initially work somewhat independently in your assigned areas, you'll need to collaborate with your group members to create and deliver a single Executive Summary and Presentation highlighting the best of each of your individual findings. You should be in communication throughout the semester, sharing resources and finding ways to delegate work (maybe by geographic region, type of program, scale of financing, etc. - you can slice and dice it however you like).
Frame your work around these questions. The answers to these questions might come from within the text of the IRA itself but also in subsequent overviews and analyses of the law.
- How will the funding be allocated to state and local governments and other recipients? In particular, who will be receiving, allocating, and disbursing the funding in Delaware?
- Consider all possible recipients but also who might be involved in deciding how to allocate the money.
- How can HELP prepare for the IRA funds? This will be the primary focus of your analysis.
- When making suggestions, you MUST consider HELP's existing capacity (they are a relatively small non-profit and have limited resources). Suggesting an enhancement of existing projects is usually a good idea, but you may want to suggest hiring additional people to "branch out" into a new project area.
- What initiatives might they propose that fit their mission and capacity and the goals of the IRA? Think of timelines, potential partnerships, leveraging of existing funds, and extension/enhancement of existing projects. etc.
- What are some challenges that HELP might face in deploying programs that meet IRA objectives?
- Consider funding procurement (How do you access the funds?), capacity, the feasibility of deploying successful programs in underserved communities, etc.
- Feasibility is a particularly important consideration when working with low-income communities. An initiative can be perfectly designed, but if the individuals impacted by it do not participate for whatever reason, the project will fail. This is often more acute with low-income populations than the general public because they often face barriers that are difficult to overcome. This could include access to child care, transportation, not owning their home, lack of trust in institutions, and more.
- How do these funding opportunities intersect with IIJA funding?
What resources should you use for research for this project?
I have provided some links on Canvas (under the Lesson 3 module on the Assigned Reading page) to some resources, but you will need to find information about the IRA and IIJA on your own (though there is a discussion board on the Final Project tab where you can share resources).
This project is worth 40% of your course grade and is comprised of the following components:
- Mid-Semester - these deliverables will be completed individually
- Mid-Semester Update: Draft Executive Summary (10%)
- Mid-Semester Update: Reflection and Plans (2.5%)
- End of Semester - these deliverables will be completed and submitted collectively as a group
- Executive Summary - Final Group Submission (10%)
- Slide Deck - Final Group Submission (5%)
- Presentation with Group (10%)
- Peer Review from your Group (2.5%)