Gottheimer introduces one-stop shopping — for infrastructure money

Congressman creating portal that will make it easier for municipalities in 5th District to learn of grant money they are eligible to receive — and help them apply for it

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer helped negotiate and pass the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that was signed in November 2021 — a bill so large, it literally could mean millions for individual municipalities.

As it turns out, that may have been the easy part.

While the bill contains plenty of money that is appropriated to states and areas, a large portion of the funding requires cities and counties to aggressively bid for large grants they may be eligible for.

The grant opportunities are released on a continual basis — so, if the leaders of towns and municipalities don’t follow closely, they may miss opportunities.

This is where Gottheimer is stepping up for the towns in the state’s Fifth Congressional District.

On Monday, Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) announced that his office in the process of creating an “Infrastructure Investment Portal” — a real-time system to provide information on, and track, competitive Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill federal investment dollars and grant opportunities for the towns and counties in the district.

The one-stop-shop webpage will educate towns, counties and nonprofits on available grants they’re eligible for to ensure that qualifying local infrastructure projects are federally funded — helping take a burden off local budgets to save taxpayers money, creating jobs and getting shovels in the ground faster to improve North Jersey’s infrastructure.

“We fought to get the infrastructure bill passed, so I’m very obsessed with making sure we get as much of the dollars back to Jersey,” he said after an event that took place underneath the structurally deficient Route 4 Hackensack River Bridge in Teaneck — a piece of infrastructure that certainly could use a grant to help restore it.

Gottheimer said he feels for the municipalities in the process, noting the haphazard nature of the process.

“They’ve been slowly putting grant programs online,” he said. “But they don’t put all the competitive things on in one shot.”

Gottheimer said he’s looking to bring sense to the process.

“Right now, we’re trying to look for the district, saying: ‘Are we applying for these things? Do people know about it?’” he said.

The site should be open and running in a few weeks, Gottheimer said. New Jersey is playing catch-up.

Gottheimer noted that other states, including Michigan and Louisiana, are winning federal grants made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill because they have created easy-to-use websites that list in real-time all the infrastructure grants their towns are eligible for, while many towns and counties in New Jersey may be unaware of the same opportunities.

That doesn’t sit well with him.

“Every single nickel we’re clawing back is money that’s not going to property tax dollars,” he said. “I want to make sure that we’re being as competitive or more competitive than (other states). Why should they get it — and not here?”

He was preaching to the choir on this day.

Gottheimer was joined by officials from more than a dozen unions — all of which are eager to do the infrastructure work the state needs.

Michael Hellstrom, vice president and Eastern regional manager, Laborers’ International Union of North America, certainly feels that way.

“I applaud Congressman Gottheimer for taking the initiative to connect potential sources of federal infrastructure aid to local communities,” he said. “The need for federal support in New Jersey is certainly great, and we must do more as a state to apply for and win federal dollars for local infrastructure improvements.”

Bergen County Central Trades and Labor Council President Michael Schneider agreed.

“On behalf of all the trades here today, including the Central Labor Council, we want to thank Congressman Gottheimer for all he’s doing,” he said. “He’s bringing back more money for the state of New Jersey than anybody has ever done in his district before.

“This new website that they’re creating is going to allow municipalities, nonprofits and counties to go after the money that he gets back from Washington that will help infrastructure projects throughout New Jersey.”

Gottheimer hopes the website helps in a battle he has been waging since he was first elected — making sure the so-called “Moocher States” — which get back more than they put in, get less. And New Jersey gets more.

“Too often, the Moocher States end up winning federal infrastructure grants simply because our towns and counties may not have known they were eligible,” he said. “This new ‘Infrastructure Investment Portal’ will be a one-stop-shop of information and will help educate towns, counties, and nonprofits on available grants — and will help all of us track what we’ve applied for.

“We need to be aggressive in applying for these opportunities, so that we can invest in our local infrastructure and save Jersey residents’ hard-earned tax dollars. Much of this work will be led by our hardworking men and women of labor. They build our roads, tunnels, transit and electric vehicle stations, lay new broadband fiber and fought incredibly hard for the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.”