NARC Celebrating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) One Year Anniversary

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the historic investment in the nation from passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Throughout the week the White House has been celebrating the one-year anniversary by highlighting achievements made possible by the passage of the bill relevant information, fact sheets, and toolkits for communities. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package was designed to facilitate the United States’ recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA included $350 billion in aid to states, cities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. 

ARPA authorized the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, including $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid to every county, parish and borough in America. It represents a strong federal-state-local partnership and an investment in localities on the front-line keeping communities healthy, safe and vibrant.  

Funding allocated under the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program is subject to the requirements specified in U.S. Department of the Treasury’s May 17, 2021 interim final rule, which became effective on that date and detailed whether a program, project or service was an eligible use. Treasury accepted public comments on the interim final rule through July 16, 2021 and after reviewing some 1,000 submitted comments adopted the final rule in early January 2022.  

On January 6, 2022 Treasury issued the Final Rule for SLFRF program adding clarifications and additional guidance not available under the interim rule. For an in-depth overview of the Final Rule check out the National Association of Counties (NACo) analysis.  

To date, Treasury has distributed more than $245 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments as a part of the SLFRF program, accounting for over 99% of funds eligible to be disbursed in 2021. Recipients of funds were encouraged to begin using funds under the interim final rule, which was released in May 2021 as the final rule does not take until April 1, 2022.   

KEEPING TRACK OF ARPA DOLLARS INVESTED

An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that state governments have appropriated nearly 70% of their available funds as of November 2021. Their review of these spending decisions shows that many states are using the funds constructively: to offset declines in their revenue collections; to address the health, economic, and fiscal impacts of the pandemic and contribute to the economic recovery; and to start new long-term investments to address racial and economic inequities. 

In addition to this analysis of broad state allocated ARPA spending, a partnership between Brookings Metro, the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the National League of Cities (NLC), aimed at highlighting innovative, evidence-based, well-targeted uses of SLFRF ARPA funds. They created the Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker. An online resource that compiles information from local governments to offer a detailed picture of how large cities and counties (with populations of at least 250,000) are deploying funding.  

This tool adds to other important efforts to understand local ARPA implementation, including Results for America’s ARP Data and Evidence Dashboard, and the Treasury Department’s analysis of highlights from initial SLFRF reports. 

Communities have until 2024 to fully plan for and commit their funds, and until 2026 to spend them. Local governments’ initial SLFRF expenditure reports contain useful roadmaps on where they are heading with ARPA funds; large cities and counties (those with populations of at least 250,000) have also delivered the first in a series of annual plans that outline their intended and actual uses of SLFRF dollars.  

Collectively, these reports and tools detail thousands of projects across dozens of eligible expenditure categories and form the data behind the Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker. 

NARC WANTS TO HEAR FROM REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) will be collecting information and tracking ARPA spending from regional councils over the next few months. If you have questions or information to share on how you are spending and planning for ARPA dollars please contact Jessica Routzahn at jessica@narc.org. 

Additional Resources:  

COVID-19 Communications Toolkit for Counties 
Utilize NACo’s COVID-19 communications toolkit, including top-level messaging, outreach ideas and templates to share how your county is investing ARPA Fiscal Recovery Funds. 

Explore NACo’s ARPA Fiscal Recovery Fund Resources 

Visit NACo’s ARPA Fiscal Recovery Fund Resource Hub to find tools to share your story, explore county best practices, access analysis and more. 

White House ARPA Anniversary Toolkit 

Join the White House and states, cities, counties, territories to amplify the successful, historic, and lasting impact of the American Rescue Plan in social media and your local press! 

 

NARC Legislative Update And Analysis: U.S. House Passes Reconciliation Package

On November 19, the U.S. House passed its version of President Biden’s  Build Back Better Act (BBBA), a $1.75 trillion (H.R. 5376) reconciliation package  that includes paid family leave, universal preschool, tax incentives, climate initiatives, and a Medicare drug price negotiation program.  The legislation passed on a 220-213 party-line vote, utilizing the reconciliation process that give the House majority nearly complete control over all elements of the bill and substantially limits the minorities ability to amend the bill.  The bill now goes to the Seante where a similar drafting process will be used.  Most importantly, however, the reconciliation process enables the Senate majority to pass a bill with a simple majority.  Once drafted, the majority leader can bring the bill straight to the floor. and any amendments are required to comply with reconciliation rules, with a vote on passage to follow. If the Senate’s version differs from the House’s version the House and Senate will have to conference both bills and come to an agreement on a single bill that must then pass the House and Senate.  The House also has the option of skipping conference and vote on the Senate bill.  If it passes it will go to the president for his signature.   

The BBBA invests heavily in social programs such as childcare, preschool education, paid parental leave, resources to address climate change, education and housing stabilization and much more. Below are more details about some of these important programs.  

WHAT’S IN THE BUILD BACK BETTER ACT:  

Investments in Affordable Housing:

BBBA would provide a total of $150 billion for affordable housing programs that either improve or build over 1 million housing units.  

  • $3.05 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, including $500 million for a new Manufactured Housing Community Improvement Program.  
  • $25 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers and supportive services.  
  • $35 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, including $15 billion to preserve and create affordable rental homes.  

Investments in Workforce Development:  

The bill would provide $4.5 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I programs within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  

  • $2 billion for the Dislocated Workers Work Employment and Training Activities  
  • $1 billion for Adult Worker Employment and Training Activities  
  • $1.5 billion Youth Workforce Investment Activities 

Investments in the Economic Development Administration: 

The bill would provide $5 billion to the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Of this total, counties would be eligible to receive funding under the following programs 

  • $3.36 billion for EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program to develop regional economic growth clusters, including grants for technical assistance, planning and predevelopment activities 
  • $480 million for EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program to provide grants for technical assistance, planning and predevelopment activities to energy and industrial transition communities 
  • $1.2 billion for a new Recompete Grants for Persistently Distressed Communities program, which would award grants to alleviate economic distress and support long-term comprehensive economic development and job creation 

Raises the Cap on The State and Local Tax Deduction: 

The bill would raise the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction from $10,000 to $80,000 and extend this cap through 2030. The $80,000 SALT cap amount would also apply to the 2021 tax year. For 2031, the SALT deduction cap would be set at $10,000. 

Investments in Climate Action:  

The BBBA would provide $555 billion for climate and clean energy investments. The bill provides tax credits up to $12,500 to those buying new electric vehicles, as well as incentives to encourage solar panel installation as well as the following:  

  • $17.8 billion to mitigate air pollution;  
  • $95 million would address hazardous materials through competitive EPA grants to reduce waste in communities to construct, expand, or modernize recycling infrastructure;  
  • $9 billion would help reduce lead in clean drinking water;  
  • and, $8.27 billion promoting environmental equity.  

Investments in Rural Development: 

The bill would provide $873 million to establish a new Rural Partnership Program through USDA, which aims to enhance rural communities’ access to federal community and economic development funding by providing flexible grants and technical assistance to a range of entities. Some additional investments in rural communities include:  

  • $9.7 billion for clean energy repowering for rural utilities; 
  • $3.5 billion to provide grants to support rural development;  
  • and, $2.7 billion for grants for construction, alteration, acquisition, modernization, renovation, or remodeling of agricultural resource facilities.  

Investments in Telecommunications: 

BBBA would allocate grants for NG911 (next generation 911) services including $9 million to establish an NG911 Cybersecurity Center within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) in addition to $1 million to establish a 16-member Public Safety NG911 Advisory Board.  Beyond the NG911 funding, the Act also allocates $295 million to NTIA for grants to public-private partnerships aimed at increasing access to broadband in urban communities. Some of the funding programs include:  

  • $300 million for the extension of the Emergency Connectivity Fund;  
  • and, $500 million in increased investments in next generation 911.  

Investments in Transportation: 

This legislation would make transportation more accessible and affordable, and help tackle the climate crisis by reducing carbon pollution from transportation and building more resilient infrastructure. Some of the transportation related programs in the bill include:  

  • $50 million facilitates national environmental policy act (nepa) reviews  
  • $294 million alternative fuel and low-emission aviation technology program  
  • $10 billion passenger rail improvement, modernizations, and emissions (prime) reduction grants  
  • $4 billion in neighborhood access and equity grants  
  • $900 million in reimbursements for use of low-carbon materials in transportation projects. 

The above is not an exhaustive list of every program and funding source in the entirety of BBBA. Additional resources and analysis from the National Association of Counties (NACo) can be found here. NARC will continue to monitor the legislation as it progresses through the Senate and provide you with additional information.  

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Bill Analysis

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Bill Analysis  

The Senate approved historic spending in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – a $1.2T bill that reauthorizes the nation’s surface transportation and drinking water and wastewater legislation and pours additional billions into new programs in transportation, energy transmission, resilience, broadband, and many others. NARC has conducted an analysis of much of the bill which is presented in two parts: a summary analysis of the provisions most applicable to metropolitan and regional planning organizations and a chart with an analysis of all of the transportation-related sections and most of the additional new spending contained in the IIJA. 

The bill’s $1.2T includes approximately $550B in new spending; approximately half of that new spending goes to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The IIJA would also provide billions in funding for energy transmission infrastructure, resilience, broadband, and many others. The result is higher funding levels in some existing programs and the creation of many new programs as well. 

The IIJA contains three types of funding: 

  1. Highway Trust Fund – These are funds taken from either the Highway Account or the Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund. These funds are provided as Contract Authority over the five years of the bill and act like “real money” that is available to spend.
  1. Guaranteed Appropriations – These are funds added by the bipartisan agreement and used to either increase funding for existing programs or create and fund new programs. Most of these funds will also be provided over five years but are “real” funds that do not need any additional action in the future to be made available.  
  1. General Fund – These are funds that have been “authorized” to be spent but require future action by the Appropriations Committee to be made available. It is likely that most of these funds will end up in the authorized pots, but examples do exist of programs that were authorized but never appropriated. 

In total, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will receive $567.5 billion from the BID. Of that amount, $293.4B is “baseline” spending (the level of spending from the current reauthorization bill, the FAST Act). That means USDOT will receive $274.1 billion in new spending authority, which is almost exactly half of the $550 billion in new spending that the BID contains overall. Of that $274 billion, $90 billion is provided as contract authority through the reauthorization bill. The other $184 billion in new spending is provided in “guaranteed appropriations” – funding that is outside of the HTF funding structure, in some cases to provide additional funding for existing programs and in others to create new programs.

For more information about the funding included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal:  

Please direct questions about the IIJA to Erich Zimmermann, Deputy Director/Director of Transportation Programs at erich@narc.org 

 

2021 Project Achievement and Leadership Award Blog Series: Houston-Galveston Area Council: The Regional Conservation Framework

Houston-Galveston Area Council: The Regional Conservation Framework

I’d like to let you in on a little secret. The Houston-Galveston region is an ecological wonderland! I know that might not be the image that first comes to mind, but our region sits at the junction of southern pine forests, prairies, and coastal wetlands. We have 16,000 miles of bayous, rivers and coastline. These vibrant ecosystems provide habitat for diverse fish and wildlife species and boast some of the best birding sites in the world. 

Yet we face serious challenges in preserving these crucial resources in the face of anticipated population growth. We’re forecasting the region will add more than four million people and 120 square miles of new development over the next 25 years. There are many outstanding conservation programs underway in the region, largely led by non-profit organizations and supported by state and federal agencies, but there are opportunities for our local governments to play an even larger role. That’s why the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) developed the Regional Conservation Framework with high-level strategies to help the region’s local governments coordinate and magnify their conservation efforts.  

This first-of-its-kind project was based on extensive listening sessions with local elected officials conducted throughout H-GAC’s 13-county region. The resulting framework lays out a high-level vision for meaningful conservation in the region, impactful strategies and attainable action steps. As part of the project, H-GAC established extensive on-line resources including a useful grants library, searchable by funding sources, eligible uses, and land types, proven best practices and case studies, and a helpful conservation mapping tool. 

The framework was funded by a grant from a local foundation who recently awarded H-GAC a generous follow-up grant to begin the Regional Conservation Initiative-an effort to kick-start implementation of the framework. Key elements to a successful project will be to work directly with local governments, in partnership with non-governmental and private organizations, to develop multi-jurisdictional partnerships and secure funding for local and regional conservation projects. Another key element of the initiative will be the development of public awareness tools and information resources for local governments to help build public support for conservation efforts in their communities. H-GAC will also provide data on the quantifiable value of conserved forests, wetlands, and other open spaces for residents of the region. 

The Regional Conservation Framework and related resources are available at h-gac.com/regional-conservation. For questions about this project, please email conservation@h-gac.com.  

Blog written and submitted by: 

Jeff Taebel, FAICP  
Director, Community and Environmental Planning 
Houston-Galveston Area Council