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Small Towns Environment Program (STEP)

Fund Name:

Small Towns Environment Program Fund

Fund Acronym:

STEP

Description:

The STEP program provides funds to eligible applicants for water and sewer infrastructure improvements utilizing self-help methods. The community must provide local volunteer labor and available material resources such as equipment in order to demonstrate a 40% cost saving off the retail construction price of the water or sewer project. The STEP award recipient must also demonstrate strong local participation in the implementation of the contract, and the overall construction and implementation must be performed predominately by community volunteer workers.  Texas State CDBG staff will provide guidance, assistance, and support to community leaders and residents willing to use self-help to solve their water and sewer problems.

The TxCDBG program will not accept an application for STEP Fund assistance until CDBG staff and representatives of the potential applicant have evaluated the self-help process and CDBG staff have determined that: Self-help is a feasible method for completion of the water or sewer project; The community is committed to self-help as the means to address the problem; And the community is ready and has the capacity to begin and complete a self-help project. Once the community meets all of the STEP criteria then the community may submit an application.

Eligible Applicants:

Eligible applicants are nonentitlement general purpose units of local government including cities and counties that are not participating or designated as eligible to participate in the entitlement portion of the federal Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). Nonentitlement cities that are not participating in urban county programs through existing participation agreements are eligible applicants (unless the city’s population is counted towards the urban county CDBG allocation).
Nonentitlement cities are located predominately in rural areas and are cities with populations less than 50,000 thousand persons; cities that are not designated as a central city of a metropolitan statistical area; and cites that are not participating in urban county programs. Nonentitlement counties are also predominately rural in nature and are counties that generally have fewer than 200,000 persons in the nonentitlement cities and unincorporated areas located in the county.

Eligible Activities:

Acquisition of real property related to the installation of water and sewer systems or improvements (easements, rights of way, etc.)
Ancillary repairs related to the installation of water and sewer systems or improvements
Installation of facilities to provide first-time water or sewer service
Installation of water or sewer system improvements
Plumbing improvements associated with providing water or sewer service to a housing unit
Reasonable associated administrative costs
Reasonable associated engineering services costs
Sewer or water taps and water meters
Water or sewer connection fees (for low and moderate income persons)
Water or sewer house service connections (for low and moderate income persons)
Water or sewer yard service lines (for low and moderate income persons)

Award Amounts

Maximum grant award: $350,000.

Evaluation

Communities will receive a written invitation to apply for funds only after a thorough review of the proposed project and the community's capacity to administer the grant.

STEP Application evaluation and scoring criteria may include, but is not limited to:
1) Project Impact
2) STEP Characteristics, Merits and Local Effort
3) Past participation and performance
4) Percentage of savings off of the retail price
5) Benefit to low to moderate-income persons

Applying for STEP Funding

Starting Feb. 1, 2016, the STEP program is transitioning from two application rounds per year to a first-come first-serve basis. TDA will accept applications throughout the year until all available funds are obligated. All other aspects of the program will remain unchanged including Letter of Interest, Community Meeting and Assessment requirements.

For more information contact:
Erica Garza at (512) 936-7875
Erica.Garza@TexasAgriculture.gov