The American Rescue Plan Act (The ARP Act), signed into law in March this year, is a transformative undertaking that will re-shape our communities and business climate for decades to come. The $1.9 trillion spending package is the sixth federal relief package through which the federal government has allocated a total of $5.7 trillion to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that ensued as a result of it. The ARP Act includes $350 billion for “Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.” As laid out by The Brookings Institution, “these funds will be deployed to state and local governments in two tranches (the first within 60 days and the second a year after that initial allotment) to mitigate the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Rockefeller Institute identified the following allowable usages for these funds, included but not limited to:
- addressing the COVID-19 emergency and its negative impacts;
- assistance to households, businesses, non-profits and impacted industries;
- restoring government services that were reduced in response to revenue losses;
- investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure;
- support for public transit;
- offering premium pay to first responders and essential workers or grants for workers.
As communities make their decisions and set priorities, Brookings suggests a threefold approach:
- stabilize operating budgets;
- strategize (i.e., invest in infrastructure and small businesses);
- and organize (i.e., set up public / private partnerships to set goals, and monitor and track results).
Since the beginning of the pandemic, some of the recovery efforts implemented across the country have included:
- Rent Relief
- Affordable Housing
- Training Programs / Coaching
- Broadened Access to Capital
- Reshoring (bringing manufacturing and services back to the United States from overseas)
- Supporting Transition to New Career Paths
- Digital Equity (expanding broadband and improving digital skills)
- Strengthened Community Development Organizations
- Building Capacity of Local Governance Organizations
- Building Resilient Communities
Municipalities are currently inviting input from residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations to assess community needs and determine spending priorities. The City of Albany, for instance, has created a COVID Recovery Task Force and is asking businesses and residents to complete a survey that will inform decision-making.
The decisions made now will lead to vibrant and resilient communities in the months and years ahead – the stakes are high, and the investments must be strategic.