COVID Relief Details: Four Steps You Can Take to Prepare

March 02, 2021 | Russ Loebe

No doubt you have been following the movement in Washington related to the latest COVID-19 relief, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The current draft has local governments receiving $130 billion, equally divided between municipalities and counties. This equates to $65 billion for municipalities allocated to all 19,000 cities, towns, and villages in the nation. It would not be surprising if you are also questioning how the American Rescue Plan affects your agency and feeling a bit confused about how to prepare for what looks to be an influx of funding to state and local governments.

While much remains at play as to final figures and application of such funds, there are a few things you can be doing now to get ready for what lies ahead.

  1. Conduct an inventory of the costs incurred to mitigate the public health emergency and/or its negative impact on your community’s economy. The Act is likely to include some parameters around the use of funds. Quantifying the effects of the pandemic on your community will be important for the application of funds so this is a good first step.
  2. Document direct and indirect costs to your agency resulting from the emergency, considering impacts on labor, operations, and service demands. Direct costs are sometimes easier to document, so don’t forget the important work of documenting indirect costs as well. Labor, operations, and changes in service demands, all influence your agency’s overall costs.
  3. Gauge and compare pre-COVID budgeted revenues to actual revenues looking for differences caused by the impact of the pandemic. When evaluating the differences in the budget vs. actual revenues, use the figures as they were in place at the end of January 2020. This is a good place to begin with your comparison.
  4. Evaluate the need for new community improvements, enhancements, operational changes, and other ideas that will help to offset the negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic. The pandemic laid bare the need to address public health emergencies. What did you identify as a need in your community that could have made you better able to weather the uncertainty created during the pandemic? Are there projects you’ve identified in your CIP that mitigate these impacts in the future? Outlining these projects now will help you be ready when the Act is approved.

You can find additional resources through organizations such as the International City Management Association, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties. Once the American Rescue Plan is passed and funding information is available, you should be prepared to apply for the funds allocated to you. If you would like to discuss in more detail how the COVID relief details apply to your community, please don’t hesitate to contact an HR Green consultant.

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