(b) The council has the authority in its sole discretion to make grants to project sponsors if it finds that: (1) The level of rates for the users would otherwise be an unreasonable burden given the users' likely ability to pay; or (2) the absence of a sufficient number of users prevents funding of the project except through grants: Provided, That no project sponsor shall receive infrastructure grant money in an amount in excess of fifty percent of the total cost of the project. Therefore, the council may consider the economic or financial conditions of the area to be served. As a condition for receipt of a grant under this subsection, the council may require, in addition to any other conditions, that the applicant pursue other state or federal grant or loan programs. Upon a recommendation by the council, the water development authority shall provide the grant in accordance with the recommendation. The council shall develop criteria to be considered in making grants to project sponsors which shall require consideration of the economic or financial conditions of the area to be served and the availability of other funding sources. The council shall adopt procedural rules regarding the manner in which grants will be awarded in conformity with this section. The procedural rules shall be adopted pursuant to article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this article to the contrary, the council shall apply a mandatory minimum end user utility rate that must be met by the project sponsor before funding assistance may be awarded. The mandatory minimum end utility rate shall be based upon a uniform statewide percentage of the median household income in a particular geographic area and said rate shall not exceed six tenths of one percent: Provided, That funding assistance made from the proceeds of any general obligation bonds and revenue bonds issued after the fifteenth day of March, one thousand nine hundred ninety-eight, after transfers required to make the state match for the water and wastewater revolving loan programs pursuant to article two, chapter twenty-two-c and article thirteen-c, chapter sixteen of this code, shall be provided by the council on a pro rata basis divided equally among the congressional districts of this state as delineated in accordance with section three, article two, chapter one of this code: Provided, however, That infrastructure projects as defined in subsection (l), section two of this article shall not be subject to pro rata distribution. When determining median household income of a geographic area of the project to be served, the council shall consider any surveys of the income of the households that will be served by the project.
(d) No loan or grant funds may be made available for a project if the project to be funded will provide subsidized services to certain users in the service area of the project.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of this article to the contrary, engineering studies and requirements imposed by the council for preliminary applications shall not exceed those engineering studies and requirements which are necessary for the council to determine the economic feasibility of the project. If the council determines that the engineering studies and requirements for the preapplication would impose an undue hardship on any project sponsor, the council may provide funding assistance to project sponsors to defray the expenses of the preapplication process from moneys available in the infrastructure fund for making loans: Provided, That the council may only provide funding assistance in an amount equal to five thousand dollars or fifty percent of the total preapplication cost of the project, whichever amount is greater. If the project is ultimately approved for a loan by the council, the amount of funding assistance provided to the project sponsor for the preapplication process shall be included in the total amount of the loan to be repaid by the project sponsor. If the project is not ultimately approved by the council, then the amount of funding assistance provided to the project sponsor will be considered a grant by the council and the total amount of the assistance shall be forgiven. In no event may the amount of funding assistance provided to all project sponsors exceed, in the aggregate, one hundred thousand dollars annually.
(f) The council shall report to the governor, the speaker of the House of Delegates and the president of the Senate during each regular and interim session of the Legislature, on its activities and decisions relating to distribution or planned distribution of grants and loans under the criteria to be developed pursuant to this article.