Connecting state and local government leaders
A report released Tuesday provides guidance for state and local spending of the federal recovery funding on programs that focus on equity and provides examples of city and county plans.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides state and local governments with a “once-in-a-lifetime pathway” to help alleviate “a history of disinvestment” in Black and other communities of color, according to a report released Tuesday by the Vera Institute of Justice.
ARPA allocated $350 billion in direct funding for states and localities to address the economic fallout of the pandemic, and the U.S. Treasury Department’s interim final rule encourages governments to spend the federal dollars to “foster a strong, inclusive, and equitable recovery, especially with long-term benefits for health and economic outcomes,” the report points out.
The Vera Institute says an equitable recovery provides low-income and communities of color with the same access to safety, health and wealth as white communities. This includes governments spending on resources that use health-first approaches to behavioral health crises and limiting the “harms of policing and jail incarceration.” It states these results can be achieved through investments in community violence interventions, behavioral health support and diversion programs, and pretrial release and post-incarceration reentry programs.
For example, ARPA funds can be used to hire violence interrupters who work with individuals and groups in conflict and hospital-based interventions that support survivors of violent crimes, and that foster behavior changes that minimize the risk of retaliatory violence.
In addition, the federal funds can be invested in programs to help people experiencing behavioral health crises rather than calling in law enforcement—an existing standard for wealthier, white communities. And the dollars can go for programs that limit incarceration.
Government and nonprofit officials urged county leaders to spend their ARPA funds with an eye toward creating equity during session at the National Association of Counties annual conference in July. Clarence Wardell III, of the White House American Rescue Plan team, said local governments should design online and in-person programs using the ARPA funds for communities most in need.
Meanwhile, James Crowder, of the nonprofit PolicyLink, outlined the things governments should consider when allocating their their federal dollars. PolicyLink’s "10 Priorities for Advancing Racial Equity Through the American Rescue Plan: A Guide for City and County Policymakers" was developed in partnership with community leaders, chief equity officers, policymakers, economic development practitioners, research and policy organizations and philanthropic partners.
A number of cities and counties have committed to using ARPA funds for initiatives that promote an equitable recovery, according to the Vera Institute. Its report includes a table that shows how some localities are investing in community support programs to help foster equity, especially for residents most impacted by the pandemic.
To compile the list, the Vera Institute says it searched for examples of how cities and counties said they plan to spend their ARPA funds. It also looked at localities’ fiscal year 2022 budgets to identify budgetary commitments. The organization said it will continue to track local spending to identify more examples that support equity.
For more information from the report and a list of the examples click here.
Jean Dimeo is managing editor of Route Fifty.