Program

COVID-19 Federal Assistance e311

Topics

Community Engagement & Local Partnerships, Fund Planning & Allocation

How can a municipality manage stakeholder expectations on funding allocation?

In order to manage stakeholder expectations regarding funding priorities, municipal leadership should: (i) determine which funding streams are available and eligible; (ii) prioritize local needs; (iii) explain to stakeholders the cost-benefit of the various available funding streams; (iv) review timeframes of potential projects; and (v) establish realistic deliverables within those timeframes.

It is important for municipal leadership to communicate clearly, frequently, and systematically with local communities and stakeholders. In fact, certain federal grants require municipalities to document stakeholder feedback and conduct community meetings in order to qualify for the receipt of funds. Frequent and clear communications can help shape stakeholder expectations.

Municipalities should consider the establishment of formal feedback channels with local communities. For example, a centralized municipal information system can formalize city-stakeholder interaction.  Certain community members and municipal workers should be designated to systematically interact with one another on the various funding streams and issues that arise as a part of this process.

Eligible Use

As a general rule, the U.S. Government defines eligible and ineligible uses with respect to grants. For example, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) recently released a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Fact Sheet which clearly outlines both eligible and ineligible uses.[1] These eligible and ineligible uses should be explained to community members. In addition, municipalities may wish to consider publishing open-ended survey questions and hosting town hall meetings in order to ensure community concerns are incorporated into its processes.

It is also important for municipalities to update stakeholders when eligibility criteria change.

Cost-Versus-Benefit

A municipality can consider conducting a gap analysis or capabilities assessment in order to best understand the cost-benefit of various funding streams. Some considerations:

  • dollars spent versus properties impacted;
  • objectives of comprehensive plan or master plan objectives;
  • the weighting of diversity and equity in project priorities; and
  • taking into account technical and other considerations in addition to an in-depth ration calculation.

In town hall meetings, municipal leaders may consider conducting a group exercise to have community members help rank the considerations listed above. This will help community members feel that they are part of the process of prioritizing eligible uses of funds.[2]

Timeframes

Most funding entities mandate ongoing reporting requirements in addition to expenditure deadlines. The Interim Final Rule of the American Rescue Plan (“ARP”) requires payments “from the Fiscal Recovery Funds be used only to cover costs incurred by the State, territory, Tribal government, or local government by December 31, 2024.”[3] The CARES Act, on the other hand, “provided that payments from the CRF be used to cover costs incurred by December 31, 2021.”[4]

It would be helpful to communicate timelines via:[5]

  • public notice of meetings;
  • advertisement requirements with procurement;
  • selection process with ratification of vendor(s);
  • construction or service time;
  • documentation substantiation;
  • contract deliverables; and
  • final closeout processes with the grantor.

Stakeholders may be unfamiliar with federal grant requirements and timeframes, and clear and consistent communications can help increase community understanding and participation.

Last Updated: June 10, 2021

[1] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Fact Sheet, May 10, 2021. https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SLFRP-Fact-Sheet-FINAL1-508A.pdf

[2] City of New Orleans Roadwork, Resilience and Green Infrastructure, March 6, 2019, https://roadwork.nola.gov/news/february-2019/resilience-and-green-infrastructure/

[4] Section 1001 of Division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 amended section 601(d)(3) of the Act by extending the end of the covered period for CRF expenditures from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/133/text.

[5] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds: Frequently Asked Questions (updated May 27, 2021), Q62. at 16-17, https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SLFRPFAQ.pdf.