Catalyzing Investment in Urban Sustainability
U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on
Urban Sustainability


Public Grant and Incentive Programs

Program Overview

Federal, state, and local governments often offer a range of grant and incentive programs to motivate and support activities, such as environmental protection, clean energy, urban infrastructure, and sustainable communities development. Public grants are considered an award of financial assistance from a public entity to any range of recipients, including nonprofit and private, to carry out a specific public purpose and cannot be used to acquire property or services for the government's direct benefit. Grants can include block grants provided to state or local governments for more general purposes, project grants specific to a distinct research or implementable project, formula and categorical grants that can only be spent on narrowly defined purposes with a specific set of recipients, and earmark grants that can be specified during the appropriate process for specific local programs.

Public incentive programs are often less rigid than grant programs and are designed to motivate activities in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors within a specific mandate. Incentive programs can offer rewards to participants that can range from tax reductions to local and national recognition programs.

How to Apply this Program

Accessing each individual grant or incentive program is different, as each program is likely to have specific requirements on the distribution of funds for programs and projects, and may also have recipient requirements. However, in general, public funds are made accessible through public posting and a transparent request for proposals process.

Contact Information
U.S. EPA's Center for Environmental Finance 

Well-known incentive programs hosted by the U.S. EPA are ENERGY STAR® and WaterSense®.

A local innovation by the Philadelphia Water Department in public grant-making includes the Stormwater Management Incentive Program Grant (SMIP Grant) in Philadelphia, PA, which provides financial assistance to nonresidential property owners who intend to build green stormwater infrastructure to manage private property runoff.

A full list of U.S. federal grants for sustainability projects is available through the organization Reconnecting America.