UNM grant will help underserved communities get water funding

By: - July 26, 2023 4:10 am

The Environmental Protection Agency presents UNM’s Southwest Environmental Finance Center with a check for $4 million to help underserved communities navigate the process of applying for federal water project funds on July 24th, 2023. (Photo by Mia Casas / KUNM)

Millions of dollars are coming to New Mexico for water projects through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, but not everyone who needs it has the knowledge or time required to apply.

The University of New Mexico announced it will receive $4 million to help underserved communities in the state navigate the process.

The money is going to UNM’s Southwest Environmental Finance Center, led by Heather Himmelberger. At an event on Monday to announce the grant, she said the funds will help her department carry out this work for about five years and fill crucial gaps in the process.

“These communities need support to help ensure that the projects they take on fit their needs and capabilities as well as their culture,” she said.

The center works with different levels of government to navigate the financial side of environmental work. In this case, it will help underserved communities identify projects that the funds could cover and apply for them.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez said at the event that she’s seen several communities in her district lose out on funding because they didn’t have the money to pay someone to do the work required to apply for it.

“In too many of my communities, we don’t have that capacity. Well, that $4 million is gonna help,” she said.

As of June, the federal government has allocated nearly $800 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for clean water projects.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. It is republished here with permission.

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Megan Myscofski
Megan Myscofski

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project. She previously worked as a Business and Economics Reporter at Arizona Public Media, where she also reported, produced and hosted a narrative podcast, Tapped, on the cost of drought in Arizona. Before that, she was a reporter and host at Montana Public Radio and an intern on the podcast "Threshold". Her first audio journalism internship was in Essen, Germany as a high school exchange student.