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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities

When Are Applications Due?

Applications are accepted only for open solicitations and are due on the specific date noted by the sponsoring organization. Assistance will be available from five separate sources: EPA, Cascade Land Conservancy, Global Green USA, Project for Public Spaces, and Smart Growth America. Application processes and deadlines will vary across sources.

Who Can Apply for Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities?

For direct assistance from EPA, the applicant must be a local, county, or tribal government. Regions, states, and incorporated nonprofit organizations are not eligible, as this program is designed to provide direct assistance from EPA to a local jurisdiction. Applicants must be located in, and project activities must be conducted within, the United States, Puerto Rico, or a territory or possession of the U.S. Regional councils of governments are encouraged to learn about the program, especially in selected communities, but the assistance is directed toward one jurisdiction.

For eligibility requirements for the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities assistance available from EPA's four grantees, please contact those organizations directly.

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What Does EPA Look for in Letters of Interest?

The RFLI will describe the evaluation criteria in detail. Briefly:

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Is Building Blocks Technical Assistance a Grant to the Receiving Community?

Under the EPA direct assistance component of the program, the assistance is NOT a grant. EPA provides direct assistance through a federal contract; therefore, no funds will be transferred to the community. Selected communities will receive assistance in the form of a one-day visit from a team of national experts organized by EPA and its federal partners to work with local leaders. EPA will provide this assistance through contractors, not as a grant. Team members will be nationally known experts in disciplines to be determined by the community's unique needs. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and EPA's regional offices will provide input and assistance to selected projects.

Assistance from the four grantees is provided under an EPA grant to each of those organizations; they in turn will provide services directly to selected communities. Communities will not receive funds from either EPA or the grantees who will be providing the technical assistance.

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Can I Request Assistance for More Than One Tool?

Under the EPA direct assistance part of the program, requesting assistance for multiple tools is allowed; however, each request must be submitted as a separate letter of interest (that is, one tool per letter). It is advisable to focus on one or two tools total and make the best case for why this assistance will have an impact in the community. Each of the four grantees will have its own requirements for tool requests; please contact each organization directly for additional information.

Each of the four grantees will have its own requirements for tool requests; please contact them directly for information.


How Do I Submit an Application?

For direct assistance from EPA, please follow the Request for Letters of Interest's instructions on how to submit an application. If you have questions, contact Kevin Nelson (nelson.kevin@epa.gov). 

For assistance from Cascade Land Conservancy, Global Green USA, Project for Public Spaces, or Smart Growth America, please contact them directly.


Where Can I Find More Information?

For more information about the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program, please visit our Building Blocks web page. If you have additional questions, e-mail Kevin Nelson (nelson.kevin@epa.gov).


How is the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program Different From the Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) Program?

EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities offers technical assistance that ranges from longer-term, in-depth assistance to more streamlined assistance for common development challenges. The SGIA program focuses on complex or cutting-edge issues, and projects take about 18 months. These projects explore innovative ideas to overcome barriers that are preventing communities from getting the kind of development they want. At the other end of the spectrum is the Building Blocks program, which provides quick, targeted technical assistance to communities using a variety of tools that have demonstrated results and widespread application. This program includes direct assistance from EPA as well as assistance from four nonprofit organizations that have received grants to provide related assistance to qualified communities.

Can a community apply for both Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) and Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities (Building Blocks)?

Yes. Communities are eligible to apply for both programs. Applicants should consider the differences in focus between these programs SGIA is meant for longer-term, cutting-edge work, while the Building Blocks program focuses on short-term assistance for a discrete issue. It is not expected that communities will apply for both programs related to the same issue; however, a community might address a complicated issue appropriate for SGIA and a more direct, streamlined issue for Building Blocks.

What is the difference between the EPA-led Building Blocks assistance and the grantee-led Building Blocks assistance?

The type of community engagement and method of delivery are similar for the EPA-led and grantee-led Building Blocks assistance. The key differences are (1) the tools that are being offered (which depend on the organization providing the assistance); (2) the method and timing of the solicitation; and (3) the specific experts providing the assistance (depending on the organization, there will be different experts working with communities).

How long are the next steps memos for Building Blocks?

Usually 4 to 5 pages in length.

Can I apply for EPA Building Blocks assistance and grantee-led assistance?

Yes, communities can apply for assistance from EPA and each of the four grantees offering Building Blocks assistance. In some cases, EPA and a grantee will offer similar tools or the same tool. In these cases, a community is able to apply for assistance for both of these tools for the same project idea. EPA will coordinate with the grantees to determine where best to provide assistance.

How many tools can I apply for? Is there a limit?

There is no limit to the number of tools for which a community can apply for the Building Blocks program, but EPA suggests that communities focus on two to three at the most. Successful letters of interest are those that are direct and to the point. This can be accomplished in multiple letters, but typically focusing on a couple of issues yields better results.

What is the size consideration for "small town/rural"?

"Small town/rural" is a community with a population of 20,000 or less.

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