OPINION: USDA HBIIP 2020 year-end free money clearance!

By Ron Lamberty, senior vice president, American Coalition for Ethanol | January 07, 2021

If you’re not already numb to phrases like “year-end clearance,” “year-end” closeout, or any of the other too loud, too-good-to-be-true sales that have been screamed about in ads for the last month, there is one more you should take a look at if you are a fuel station owner. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Higher Blends Infrastructure and Incentive Program has some money left over, and they want to get rid of it within the next couple of weeks.

USDA HBIIP originally offered $100 million dollars in matching grants for fuel marketers who wanted to add higher blends of ethanol, and fuel distributors who wanted to put in biodiesel distribution infrastructure. The original deadline to apply for that program was mid-August of last year, and hundreds of fuel marketers applied for, and were awarded grants. However, once the dust settled, USDA had $22 million dollars that had either not been awarded or that applicants decided not to accept for one reason or another. As a result, USDA announced late last month that they would reopen a second short 30-day application window, an extremely rare “second chance” that ends on Jan. 19 at 5:59 p.m. EST.

Following the original deadline, ACE continued to hear from marketers who wanted information about the grant program, and we immediately shared information with those people about this second chance opportunity. If you are one of the individuals or companies that started the cumbersome application process and weren’t able to complete it on time, this application window should be welcome news for you. Most of the retailers who started, but didn’t complete applications last time, were thwarted by delays in receiving the approvals and registration numbers grant-seekers had to have in hand before they could even ask for access to the HBIIP application site. Essentially, hopeful station owners had to apply for permission to apply, and the agencies that needed to give marketers those approvals were not able to process the permissions in time for applications to be completed.

If you’re one of those people or companies who was still waiting for red tape to be cleared when the deadline hit, this can be a rare second bite at a federal free money apple. Go get it! Even if you did not start the process last summer, there is still an opportunity to apply for HBIIP grants - if you get to work NOW. Because there are fewer retailers applying for this round of grants (anyone who received a grant in round one is not eligible for this round), you might still have time to complete the application process and possibly get new equipment with half the cost covered by a federal grant – up to a maximum of $3 million per applicant.

The process isn’t simple, but ACE can help break it down into bite-sized pieces for you, giving you the best chance at receiving your share of the remaining HBIIP grant funds. You can watch some short videos we filmed with folks from USDA who run the program, explaining the steps to applying on the flexfuelforward.com website. Please go watch those videos and feel free to contact me at rlamberty@ethanol.org, or Chuck Beck at cbeck@ethanol.org with any questions you have. Thank you for your consideration, and at ACE, we’re happy to do anything we can to help you help us sell more ethanol!