NLC REPORT: How to Spend ARPA Funds With an Equity Lens

Jen Aceto, partnered with Polco

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

With the arrival of American Rescue Plan Act funding, local leaders are looking at resource allocation through the lens of equity. Instead of limiting the focus to a single department or coordinator, they are taking a broader view, gathering community input and data before they make decisions about where the funds will go.

Gathering Data Through Community Engagement

Before deciding how to allocate ARPA funds, local leaders need to understand the needs of residents and businesses. Underserved populations and neighborhoods may have the greatest recovery needs. Hearing from community members will help leaders uncover valuable insights and guide decisions on how to spend funds equitably, both immediately and in the long term. Doing this work now will build a foundation for continued engagement and informed decision-making in the future.

U.S. Treasury guidelines urge local governments to engage their communities in deciding how to spend the funds. The funding has the potential to produce a significant change in communities around the country, especially when it comes to mitigating inequities. The guidelines also require that funds promote equitable outcomes. So leaders must design public input programs and interventions with equity in mind. Not only is equity a requirement for local governments in ARPA spending – it is also in the best interest of the city’s overall success.

Data Tells a Story

Survey data will help local governments tell the story of their recovery and help them decide how to move forward, building the foundation for long-term success. It also meets Treasury guidelines, which will help the federal government understand the impact of ARPA dollars on the community. Gathering data on an ongoing basis is critical for local governments to qualify for ARPA funding in the coming years.

Gathering data through public input can help leaders see differences in access to resources and services across groups. Once municipalities have this data, they can begin to align funding with efforts to promote equity. They must also collect data on an ongoing basis regarding how the funds benefit residents, how they promote equitable outcomes, and progress equity goals.

polco logo

Polco, a trusted partner of National League of Cities (NLC), is an online civic engagement company that serves the community information needs of local governments. Polco is working with NLC and Treasury guidelines to help cities across the nation incorporate public input that captures diverse feedback from constituents, local businesses, and residents. Polco’s ARPA Engagement Package involves community surveys to help cities get the data they need to establish a baseline and see changes over time. The package also shows a results dashboard that allows leaders to see how they are doing in the area of equity and inclusion.

Read more at National League of Cities website:

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