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COVID-19 Federal Assistance e311

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Community Engagement & Local Partnerships

What are good practices for engaging the community in the allocation of ARP funds?

Municipalities can take several steps to support community engagement.

During the planning process and in advance of community engagement, a municipality should consider the following non-exhaustive strategies:

  • setting clear goals;
  • establishing frameworks;
  • developing timelines;
  • selecting targets of the community engagement program; and
  • understanding the extent to which the community will have input into the final allocation process.

Municipalities should understand the full breadth of funding sources being made available to local governments through the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARP”) prior to engaging with the community.  These include but are not limited to the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (“CSLFRF”),[1] several housing-related programs including Emergency Rental Assistance and Emergency Housing Vouchers,[2] and Federal Transit Administration public transportation grants.[3]One of the ARP’s intended goals is to provide relief to vulnerable populations.[4][5][6] Municipalities should consider ways to continuously evaluate and re-evaluate whether the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 are being reached by federal stimulus funds. To that end, municipalities can: (i) identify barriers to outreach; (ii) develop and address ways to engage at-risk communities; and (iii) activate multiple engagement channels.

The CSLFRF Reporting and Compliance Guide requires annual Recovery Plan Performance Reports from states and municipalities with more than 250,000 residents. The Guide states that the reports must describe the municipalities’ community engagement efforts and:

“… describe how your jurisdiction’s planned or current use of funds incorporates written, oral, and other forms of input that capture diverse feedback from constituents, community-based organizations, and the communities themselves. Where relevant, this description must include how funds will build the capacity of community organizations to serve people with significant barriers to services, including people of color, people with low incomes, limited English proficient populations, and other traditionally underserved groups.”[7]

The successful and equitable allocation of stimulus funds requires broad efforts designed to ensure that allocated funds serve the communities and constituencies mentioned above, and these efforts should be reflected in the reports and supported by a variety of inputs.    

Framework and models for community engagement can be found in the reference links below. These range from municipal planning documents to publications by organizations that encourage community participation in public capital allocation.

Last Revised: July 1, 2021

[1] U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Policy Issues”, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/coronavirus/assistance-for-state-local-and-tribal-governments/state-and-local-fiscal-recovery-fund

[2] United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fact Sheet:  Housing Provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, at [1], available at: https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/Main/documents/Factsheet_Housing_Provisions_American_Rescue_Plan_Act-2021.pdf.

[4] The White House, “President Biden Announces American Rescue Plan,” available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/legislation/2021/01/20/president-biden-announces-american-rescue-plan/

[5] The White House, “Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery,” available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/21/executive-order-ensuring-an-equitable-pandemic-response-and-recovery/

[6] U.S. Department of the Treasury, Fact Sheet “The American Rescue Plan Will Deliver Immediate Economic Relief to Families,” available at: https://home.treasury.gov/news/featured-stories/fact-sheet-the-american-rescue-plan-will-deliver-immediate-economic-relief-to-families  

[7] United States Department of Treasury, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds: “Guidance on Recipient Compliance and Reporting Responsibilities,” at page 25, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SLFRF-Compliance-and-Reporting-Guidance.pdf.