Report: Counties prioritize health programs, human services with Rescue Fund spending
Having borne the fiscal weight of the pandemic since it was first realized last March, it’s been a long and difficult year for county governments. Meeting at least some of those monetary needs, the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which was signed into law earlier this year, allocated $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid for counties and regions.
Nearly 80 percent of counties intend to direct their Recovery Fund allotments toward health programs and about 70 percent intend to invest in human services, notes the introduction to a series of reports published by the National Association of Counties documenting how counties are investing their Rescue Fund allotments.
“As directed by the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) and the U.S. Department of Treasury, counties can invest Recovery Funds into a broad range of programs, services and projects under five categories to: support the public health response; address negative economic impacts caused by COVID-19; replace lost revenue; provide premium pay to essential workers; and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure,” the introduction says.
The analysis documents nine ways counties intend to invest the money to help their local constituents.
Specifically, 79 percent of county administrators reported an intention to invest in health programs; 68 percent in human services, children and families; 57 percent have prioritized spending for transportation and infrastructure including water and sewer; 46 percent in workforce and employment; 43 percent in local diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; 43 percent for housing and homelessness services; 37 percent to support measures taken to aid small businesses and nonprofits; 33 percent to increase residential broadband access; 25 percent for justice and public safety.
Through an analysis of more than 200 county ARPA recovery fund plans, the series is broken up into four reports covering key areas of social need that have been exasperated by the pandemic: children and families; housing and homelessness; equity; and rural communities.
From emergency housing vouchers to support those struggling economically, to WiFi hotspots installed in low-income neighborhoods and recovery grants for small businesses, each report gives a number of real-world examples of local initiatives that are poised to receive funding.
Cumberland County, Maine, for example, intends to use its allotment to “develop a workforce training program for childcare providers to expand capacity. The county will collaborate with state and regional partners to develop a child entrepreneurship training initiative that will fill in gaps in service that were worsened during the pandemic,” the report says.
And Adams County, Colo., “has set aside $1 million for vaccine equity clinics and incentives, in addition to $92,000 for a new social justice/race equity coordinator to help fulfill ARPA’s directive and assist in the development of programs that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities.”
Since the recovery plan was enacted, the National Association of Counties has collected 255 plans, 200 of which are Recovery Plans, the report says. Plans contain detailed project performance data, including information on efforts to improve equity and engage communities for counties with populations above 250,000. For more information or to submit a plan to the county association, email [email protected].
To view the full series of reports, visit bit.ly/3pF7FWn.