For many organizations, ARPA funding will be the largest financial boost to their budgets in decades. However, leaders must quickly and strategically decide how to best use the money. Counties and cities can use this opportunity to chart a new path toward inclusive economic growth and modernize their local government service delivery approach. In this blog post, we review the implications of ARPA for local governments, and in particular, how it can be used to modernize your technology infrastructure.
What is ARPA?
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319) into law, also known as ARPA. The goal of this $1.9 trillion package is to counteract the economic and public health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid to every county in America.
On May 10, the U.S. Treasury Department released its interim final rule on the use of ARPA Funds. The rule will govern the allocation of $350 billion that ARPA provided to states, counties, cities, and tribal and territorial governments without a great deal of statutory guidance. These funds provide greater flexibility than similar resources provided under the CARES Act from spring 2020. The rule provides particular flexibility for state and local spending in lower-income neighborhoods, tribal government spending, and spending targeted to “other populations, households, or geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
Local Governments Consider How to Use ARPA Funds
For many organizations, this funding will be the largest financial boost to their budgets in decades. However, leaders must quickly and strategically decide how to best use the money. The decisions made by local leaders will determine whether their counties and cities merely enjoy a brief stimulus or use this opportunity to embark on a new journey of inclusive economic growth and modernize their service delivery approach.
This presents a challenge to leaders as they try to make the best decisions for their communities in a smart, equitable way while also quickly moving forward. The pressure is on as leaders try to make sure they use their funds to improve the future of their communities, instead of just spending the money for short-term improvements.
ARPA Funds Can be Used for Data or Technology Improvements
- A section of the interim rule devoted to “Expenses to Improve Efficacy of Economic Relief Programs” reads in part:
“State, local, and Tribal governments may use payments from the Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve efficacy of programs addressing negative economic impacts, including through use of data analysis, targeted consumer outreach, improvements to data or technology infrastructure, and impact evaluations” (page 34)
ePropertyPlus can certainly improve the administration of housing or community revitalization activities, and thus should qualify as an investment in “improvements to data or technology infrastructure”.
- A second section of the rule is focused on “Building Stronger Communities through Investments in Housing and Neighborhoods.” This section reads in part:
“Services in this category alleviate the immediate economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing insecurity, while addressing conditions that contributed to poor public health and economic outcomes during the pandemic, namely concentrated areas with limited economic opportunity and inadequate or poor-quality housing.
Eligible services include:
- Services to address homelessness such as supportive housing, and to improve access to stable, affordable housing among unhoused individuals;
- Affordable housing development to increase supply of affordable and high-quality living units; and
- Housing vouchers, residential counseling, or housing navigation assistance to facilitate household moves to neighborhoods with high levels of economic opportunity and mobility for low-income residents, to help residents increase their economic opportunity and reduce concentrated areas of low economic opportunity.” (page 39)
When used in conjunction with affordable housing production or rehab programs, we believe that ePropertyPlus can be used to “improve access to stable and affordable housing” and/or support “affordable housing development.” For example, ePropertyPlus’ Public Site offers local governments a turnkey web portal for helping people seek out affordable housing and apply for housing services. If this is your intent, we believe ePropertyPlus would definitely be an eligible use of ARPA funds.
Using ARPA Funds for Your Community Revitalization
If you are looking for ways to use your entity’s ARPA funds to make a lasting investment in your community’s revitalization, an investment in your data system can help your organization deliver transparent, accountable, and efficient service to your community. The ePropertyPlus property management system helps many local governments agencies convert complex property data into strategic information for making decisions, assigning services, and getting property back to productive use.