ProgramCOVID-19 Federal Assistance e311
TopicsCommunity Engagement & Local Partnerships, Compliance & Reporting, Infrastructure & Maintenance Investments
Funding SourceAmerican Rescue Plan Act, CARES Act, CSLFRF, FEMA, HUD, Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act
What are good practices for engaging community stakeholders when planning to use Capital Projects funding?
Municipalities can deploy many strategies to incorporate community stakeholders in project planning for projects funded by the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (“Capital Projects”), including but not limited to:
- Hosting community engagement forums,
- Conducting needs and risks assessments,
- Analyzing empirical data, and
- Intensifying municipality responsiveness.
Municipalities can engage community stakeholders when planning how to use Capital Projects funds. Helpfully, costs associated with community engagement are considered ancillary costs to investments in capital assets and can likely be claimed as such, as per the Treasury. Community stakeholders include but are not limited to, community leaders, nonprofit organizations, community residents, teachers, and other individuals and organizations invested in a community's economic and social development.
Community Engagement Forums
Municipalities can create public forums to channel a community's opinions on its infrastructure needs. Public forums should be accessible to all community members by having multiple engagement avenues, such as online and in-person forums.
For example, elderly community members or community members without broadband access may find it difficult to engage in an online forum. An in-person forum may better suit these residents' needs, allowing them to express concerns or present opportunities to community leaders. Conversely, working parents may not have time to attend an in-person forum and may find it easier to meet with their community leaders remotely.
Needs and Risk Assessments
Conducting an official needs and/or risk assessment in a community is another way to engage community stakeholders in Capital Projects planning. This strategy seeks to understand the needs, opinions, and concerns of community stakeholders and members who may not otherwise volunteer this information and allows for a focus on specific communities that may be under- represented. Municipalities should focus on the most under-resourced and at-risk populations in their communities for both needs and risk assessments.
Where public forums and needs assessments can offer anecdotal evidence of a community’s needs, analyzing empirical data can offer generalized statistics on a community’s living conditions. This approach allows an empirical foundation for Capital Projects planning, potentially identifying opportunities municipalities can miss utilizing other strategies.
Looking at neighborhood-level or Census tract data, municipalities can find “hyperlocal” areas for Capital Projects funding opportunities. For example, Raj Chetty's Opportunity Atlas allows municipalities to trace the roots of today's affluence and poverty back to the neighborhoods where people grew up, see where and for whom opportunity is missing, and develop local solutions to help more children rise out of poverty.
Municipalities should seek to respond to the concerns and recommendations of community stakeholders. When using an online forum for example, municipalities should respond to posts from community stakeholders. Failure to respond to or address concerns may result in community stakeholders becoming disengaged.
Any strategy by which a municipality chooses to engage with its community stakeholders should seek to keep the conversation flowing from community leaders to stakeholders. In addition to responding to posts on online forums, community leaders could personally follow up with community stakeholders after an in-person forum. These approaches will help to maintain community stakeholders' engagement in the planning and implementation of Capital Projects.
Seeking the opinions of all community stakeholders can help a municipality maximize its use of Capital Projects funding by addressing the most severe needs in a community using a combination of the above- strategies. For example, a municipality can use the Opportunity Atlas to discover the best location for an in-person public forum. Likewise, a needs assessment can uncover what a community thinks of its leadership's accessibility when the community desires to express its concerns, as well as leadership’s responsiveness to such concerns. It is also important to remember that the Project and Expenditure Reports submitted quarterly to Treasury should include data regarding community engagement efforts.
Last Updated: February 14, 2023
 U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Guidance for the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund,” page 8, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Capital-Projects-Fund-Guidance-States-Territories-and-Freely-Associated-States.pdf
 U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Guidance for the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund,” page 19, available at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Capital-Projects-Fund-Guidance-States-Territories-and-Freely-Associated-States.pdf