University News

U.’s $215 million wish-list not likely to be funded

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 13, 2009

Looking to grab a share of the federal economic stimulus bill, Brown has submitted funding requests totaling $215 million to the state’s Office of Economic Recovery and Reinvestment for five proposed construction projects.

The proposals, which according to Brown would create a total of 460 jobs, include a number of plans on the University’s wish list. Among the proposed projects are the construction of a new medical education building, replacement of research facilities and conservation projects that would reduce the University’s carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Upgrades to Information Technology infrastructure and a new data center were also proposed as possible uses for the incoming federal dollars, according to a listing on the Rhode Island office’s Web site. The site lists all proposed projects under review for public evaluation.

But Clyde Briant, the University’s vice president for research, said the funds Brown thought might be made available for those specific projects have been allocated elsewhere.
“We don’t expect to receive anything,” he said.

The state has solicited proposals from cities, public housing projects, state agencies and public and private universities in anticipation of available federal funding. But the types of projects that will be supported through the federal stimulus package are still uncertain.

“We were asked by the state to submit something, and we did,” Briant said. “The specific projects might look like they were applicable to Brown, but they are also important for the community.”

Brown submitted the preliminary requests for projects that the University wanted to see move forward, Briant said, but added that it was his understanding that the funds were probably no longer available.

Much of the uncertainty surrounding the allocation of funding stems from the ambiguity of the federal bill, said Amy Kempe, press secretary for Governor Donald Carcieri ’65. “We know that there is a recovery stimulus bill coming,” she said. “We have no idea what it’s going to look like.”

So far, the state has received over 1,500 project proposals, Kempe said, adding that the $215 million requested for Brown construction projects adds up to one fifth of the total funds the state is expecting to receive from the stimulus bill.

The state solicited project requests without placing restrictions on the types of proposals while the state continued to wait for decisions from the federal government, Kempe said.
Rhode Island is already receiving money from existing funding streams, she added, including increased food stamp benefits and transportation subsidies. But she said the federal government is just starting to release information about the types of projects it will fund through state agencies.

“A lot of this information is still forthcoming,” Kempe said. “The state needs to receive rules and regulations from the federal government” before they can make their own decisions about allocating funds for these projects.

As decisions become available, Kempe said, the state will post information on recovery Web sites, adding that the uncertainty resulting from the recent passage of the bill makes it imperative for universities to continually check the status of grant availability.

“Universities must be diligent in monitoring recovery Web sites,” she said.

Because funding availability is unclear, Kempe said, Brown may need to re-apply for certain grants due to the requirements of the stimulus bill, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The stimulus package will designate grants to state agencies to distribute at their own discretion.

“It’s not as simple as just submitting an application,” she said. “It’s up to private universities to determine which grant application they may be eligible for.”

The state’s economic recovery office is currently putting together teams that will be able to evaluate the submitted requests once the state receives federal guidance, Kempe said. But she said there has been “zero evaluation” so far.

“There’s a very limited number of grants that will be available,” Kempe said. “It’s a matter of patience and diligence.”