Connecting state and local government leaders
The collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Conference of Mayors lets city leaders search information and ask questions about rules and regulations related to coronavirus relief money.
City leaders around the U.S. have asked dozens of questions in recent months about how federal pandemic aid flowing to their jurisdictions under the American Rescue Plan Act can be used.
For instance: “What are some of my city’s obligations and responsibilities to prevent fraud related to ARP funds?” “Can revenue loss from 2020 be used to pay for any budget shortfalls for 2021?” “May cities use American Rescue Plan funds to finance a previous infrastructure project?”
Those questions, and hundreds of others, have been asked by local officials and answered by experts on a new website that aims to help officials “identify, obtain and retain billions in federal recovery dollars.”
The Covid Federal Assistance e311 site, a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, gives cities free access to a searchable database of questions and answers about the rules and regulations governing the use of federal coronavirus relief dollars.
The resources are also available to county leaders, as the rules dictating use of the funds are similar for both types of governments.
Information is broken into roughly two dozen topics, ranging from fraud protection to tourism. Officials can search the site for questions posed by other cities and also ask their own questions, which will be answered by a team of experts from emergency management firms across the country.
The goal is to provide mayors with a comprehensive playbook on how to obtain, manage and “properly maximize” the multiple federal funding streams available to help their cities with pandemic recovery, said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the former mayor of New York City.
“Mayors have been on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic since day one, and now they’re working to lead the economic recovery, too,” he said in a statement. “But to access the federal funding that is available to them, they’ll need to navigate a complicated maze of regulations and paperwork. To help mayors stay focused on the crisis at hand, our team will support city halls across the country as they go through the process of applying for and securing federal funds.”
Giving cities access to questions posed by their peers will hopefully help leaders in other parts of the country navigate their own situations, the organizations said in a news release.
“Cities are under enormous pressure to allocate federal funds quickly and to alleviate suffering in their communities,” they said. “By sharing actionable guidance one city receives with all cities, this program is helping all cities recover more quickly.”
City officials can also attend workshops on specific funding topics, including how to calculate revenue loss and tips for complying with federal reporting requirements.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, said the website had provided her city with useful information about leveraging federal dollars to fund procurement and workforce development.
“Our service to businesses and workers has moved forward more quickly and effectively due to the expertise of the e311 project team,” she said in a statement.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.