The $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan Act: Take the Money

We have all heard about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). By now, many counties and cities have received their initial round of funding. Many of us have joined conference calls with White House staff and attended webinars from all our professional associations. 

As the VP of Government Finance for OpenGov, I have read the ARPA text and followed the Treasury Department’s evolving guidance along with its FAQs. Like other leading vendors in the local government market, we have conducted numerous webinars ourselves and written extensively about this important legislation over the last few months.

This is the first of a four-part series covering the latest in our interpretation of the ARPA, how to use the money, ARPA best practices, and an overview of how to best tackle the reporting and audit requirements.  

1. Take the money.  Yes, it has federal strings, but it is once-in-a-generation federal help.

2. Make a plan. Engage local stakeholders, service providers, and residents.

3. Rehire your team. You need folks back in every authorized position more than ever.

4. Buy some modern technology. Help your teams manage all this.

5. Help your community. Equitably allocate funds to local subrecipients.

6. Just don’t forget those strings. Plan for transparency, reporting, and your auditors.


Before We Begin

We’ll get into some of the key ARPA requirements if you download this eBook, but first, I wanted to share some perspective on this moment. After listening to the White House and the Treasury Department conference calls, I am struck by how every speaker expressed positive and empathetic interest in making the ARPA work for local governments and their communities. The federal rule-makers are working closely with GFOA, NACO, NLC, and ICMA staff to meet everyone’s needs and minimize the bureaucratic aspects of ARPA administration.

Remember the catastrophe we faced last March? Just over one year ago, COVID-19 caused closures across the globe. Main street businesses collapsed. Tourism, travel, conventions, restaurants all ground to a halt. Many governments reacted quickly with staff and program cuts, city hall closures, and transformation to work-from-home cultures.

Those of us who survived the Great Recession of 2007-09 will recall looking into the abyss and, now, the cold chill of it happening all over again last year. We will never forget the slow, painful recovery that many local government leaders might argue they’ve never fully recuperated from. But some learned the lesson of the federal government’s necessary role in local recovery.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 11, 2021, providing a singularly positive and powerful reprieve for state and local governments across the country. ARPA includes $350 billion in funding dedicated to states, localities, territories, and tribal governments.

For all the angst and worry about federal strings, usage restrictions, and mandatory reporting, this is a phenomenal effort to make sure this economic recovery is different from the last one. This time everyone wants the recovery to be broad-based and include those communities and groups most disadvantaged by the pandemic. This recovery is intended to leave communities and their governments more resilient and better positioned for the future. 


Want to learn more?

Read our eBook covering what you need to know about ARPA (and how to use it) by clicking here.

Categories: OpenGov Updates, Uncategorized