What Is the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) is the latest in a series of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related relief and economic stimulus legislation. ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds help build economic capabilities for state, local, territorial, and tribal government agencies to meet pandemic response needs, address the negative economic impacts, and build a strong and equitable recovery from this public health crisis. With this federal aid, jurisdictions have been able to strengthen and support vital public services put at risk by or needed because of the pandemic.
How Do ARPA Funds Impact Boulder County?
On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law. As part of ARPA, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) was established to address certain impacts from the pandemic. Boulder County was allocated $63,359,749.
States, territories, counties, and cities with populations of 250,000 or more were required to publicly post and submit an initial Recovery Plan Performance Report to the Treasury Department by Aug. 31, 2021. The plan focuses on pandemic efforts to date and how Boulder County’s approach to using ARPA funds will support a strong and equitable recovery, respond to the public health emergency and negative economic impacts, and address racial, health, and economic disparities.
Community Engagement and Planning
The Boulder County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) partnered with the Community Foundation of Boulder County, consultant Rebuild by Design, and local community partners on community engagement to ensure ARPA funding investments achieve the highest level of positive and equitable impact for the community.
The first phase of the community engagement process entailed six weeks of collecting feedback from residents, businesses, workers, and students in the county. From more than 1500 completed surveys and 41 events, the engagement process revealed that the greatest challenges facing community members are:
1) Negative Economic Impacts
2) Housing Affordability
3) Cost of Living
4) Mental Health
These results were consistent across gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, employment status, and disability status. The second phase consisted of a four-month Working Group process to delve more deeply into three priority areas and ultimately make recommendations for specific projects to address the needs in these areas: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience. Read below for more.
Phase 1: Community Feedback
The process for collecting feedback in Phase 1 entailed six weeks of in-person and online outreach (September 1st – October 15th), in partnership with community members and leaders, seeking ideas for building a durable and equitable recovery. County staff and community partners organized and/or attended over 41 events throughout the county to listen to residents’, businesses’, workers’, and students’ concerns and gathered more than 1500 surveys in English, Spanish, and Nepali, “Boulder County Wants to Hear from You!”
When asked “What’s one thing Boulder County can do to improve the lives of you, your loved ones, or your business?” an overwhelming number of respondents suggested increased and improved affordable housing options. The other top suggestions include economic support to offset the impacts of the pandemic, improved mental health services including initiatives to combat social isolation from the digital divide, increasing affordable childcare options, and greater support for the arts and artists.
Feedback also revealed skepticism and doubts from the community that their opinions will be heard. We also heard that while the County has made resources available to those who have struggled throughout the pandemic, many individuals and businesses are unaware of the programs they can access or do not know how to navigate the current systems.
Read the English version of the report, find the Spanish version of the report on this link, or watch the ARPA Steering Committee’s November 10th presentation to BOCC for more insights from the engagement process, lessons learned, and recommendations for Phase 2.
The BOCC also hosted an ARPA-focused Town Hall that took place on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Watch the Town Hall video and learn more about the community engagement process and Q&A from Boulder County residents! In addition to the survey and other opportunities for community engagement, existing data and prior feedback from the community were collected and synthesized.
Phase 2: ARPA Working Groups Process
The BOCC and ARPA Steering Committee appointed three ARPA Working Groups in December 2021, comprised of community members that understand the diverse interests of Boulder County and can speak first-hand to the needs of those most impacted by COVID-19, moving into the next phase of community engagement and planning. Members were appointed in the three working group focus areas of: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience. Working Groups met from February to May 2022, drawing from educational and informative workshops, subject matter experts, the needs and ideas of community members, Treasury guidelines for ARPA and the ARPA framework to promote equitable outcomes, and more. The recordings of these meetings are posted on the ARPA website.
Each of the working groups included a community partner and County department head as co-leads, with a County Commissioner as sponsor to support the process. Working groups added additional members in subcommittees or as advisors to draw from lived and subject matter expertise and experience in the community. Please follow the link for detailed information on the structure, roles, and responsibilities of each one the working groups and its members.
Working Groups proposed recommendations to the BOCC in May 2022 that support ARPA investments in each of the three focus areas for a total of approximately $46 million in funding. Phase 2 projects were approved at business meetings in June and August 2022
Funding Allocations: What Boulder County Has Funded So Far
Boulder County has made two rounds of funding allocations from the $63,359,749 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) award that the County received from Treasury. The Board of County Commissioners approved an initial allocation of $5,546,010 in 2021 toward immediate needs in pandemic response and recovery. The immediate needs process in Summer and Fall 2021 evaluated and responded to unmet needs of the community and internal county operations as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency that were not funded in Boulder County’s annual budget cycle.
To determine how to expend the remainder of funds, aside from administrative and a reserve for pandemic costs, the County and partners engaged in a community engagement and planning process, with the assistance of consultant Rebuild by Design and in collaboration with Community Foundation Boulder County and the ARPA Steering Committee. First, the County heard from more than 1500 residents about the needs and impacts of the pandemic. Community feedback identified three areas of greatest need: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience. Working Groups formed around each of these issue areas to identify projects for a transformative and equitable recovery.
Working groups were composed of community members from non-profits, businesses, and other stakeholders, along with county staff and leadership, and each was sponsored by a County Commissioner and co-led by a community leader and a Boulder County department head. Their work was informed by feedback from the community feedback as well as stakeholder input, best practices and research, advice from subject matter experts, and other ways. Working Group members developed project ideas and then prioritized them according to what would have the most impact and other criteria. Proposals were presented to the Board at a public hearing on May 3, 2022, and approved at a Business Meeting on June 14, 2022.
The county also previously received CARES Act funding and currently administers Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance funds, in addition to ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund dollars. Some of the programs and services CARES Act funds supported included grants for childcare centers, human services initiatives, local non-profits support, telework resources for county staff, public health support, and economic assistance to local businesses and non-profits.
Phase 2 Pandemic Recovery and Relief Projects
Boulder County ARPA SLFRF Immediate Needs Project Descriptions
In November 2021, the ARPA Community Steering Committee shared the results of the Boulder County community engagement process with the ARPA Steering Committee Preliminary Engagement Report in English and Spanish.
Boulder County also retained TDA Consulting, Inc. to conduct a gap analysis analyzing data on the pandemic’s impacts in Boulder County, using ARPA spending categories to categorize data and summarize priority needs identified by community stakeholders.
Boulder County has a commitment to promoting and practicing racial equity. This report incorporates data, when available, that illuminate ways the pandemic has had racially disproportionate impacts. Please see the following link to read the report.
With the assistance of consultant Rebuild by Design and in collaboration with Community Foundation Boulder County and the ARPA Steering Committee, the ARPA Community Engagement process prioritized recommendations for a transformative and equitable recovery. The following reports further explain the process, findings, and recommendations for each phase of the Community Engagement and planning process:
- Boulder County ARPA Final Report: A Community Driven Path Towards an Equitable Recovery
- ARPA Working Groups Final Proposal Programs
- Propuesta Final de los Programas de los Grupos de Trabajo ARPA
Boulder County ARPA Newsletters
ARPA in the News
- Boulder County Releases 2022 Performance Report for Federal Recovery Funds
- Boulder County Board of County Commissioners Approves $36.5M in Second Round of Funds for COVID-19 Recovery/June 2022
- ARPA Working Groups virtual presentation of ideas on Tuesday, May 3/April 2022
- ARPA working groups appointed to advise effective and equitable investment of federal pandemic relief funds/February 2022
- Next Steps for ARPA Federal Funds and the Second Phase of Community Engagement and Planning Process Announced/December 2021
- Boulder County Commissioners Provide Progress Report and Announce Opportunities for Public Input on Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding/September 2021
- Boulder County hears proposals for $63M in federal relief money|yahoo.com|Daily Camera|May 4, 2022)
- American Rescue Plan Act working groups will present recommendations to invest the ARPA Funds on Tuesday, May 3|The Longmont Leader|April 29, 2022
- ARPA working groups appointed to advise effective and equitable investment of federal pandemic relief funds|The Longmont Leader|February 27, 2022
- Boulder County creates three groups to recommend ARPA spending|dailycamera.com|February 25, 2022
- Boulder County forms three groups to recommend ARPA spending|Colorado News|February 25, 2022
- Where Does Boulder Need The Most Federal Support?|KGNU News|February 14, 2022
- Boulder County Conducts Needs Assessment To Inform Distribution Of ARPA Relief Funds|KGNU News|September 23, 2021
- Boulder City Council And County Commissioners Meet Tonight To Discuss ARPA Funds|KGNU News|September 9, 2021
- County Commissioners – American Rescue Plan funding Town Hall |goldhilltown.com| September 6, 2021
- Boulder County commissioners to hold Thursday town hall, seek ideas for spending federal COVID-19 recovery funds|dailycamera.com|September 5, 2021
- How Would You Spend $63 Million?|Out Boulder County|October 12,2021
- How Should American Rescue Plan Funds Be Spent in Boulder County? | News City of Louisville| October 04, 2021
ARPA Funds Distribution
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are helping Boulder County communities overcome the challenges of the pandemic and rebuild a better future. The stories below are just an example of how this funding is helping to address the negative economic impacts and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and build a strong and equitable recovery in Boulder County.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
ARPA Funds Timeline
Pandemic Response and Immediate Needs
Community Engagement and Planning
2022 – 2026
Phase 2 Project Implementation
Phase 2 Pandemic Recovery and Relief Projects
The Boulder County Board of County Commissioners has approved $46,480,000 in Phase 2 ARPA funding, in addition to $5,531,880 for immediate needs approved in 2021. Below are descriptions of the Phase 2 projects in the categories of Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience.
Boulder County Launched Monthly Newsletter with Updates on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Projects
Boulder County ARPA News provides monthly articles, interviews, and stories about ARPA funds and their use in three main areas: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience. “Each new edition of Boulder County ARPA News will feature progress being made on Boulder County’s Phase 2 Pandemic Recovery and Relief Projects supported by ARPA, with content on resource distribution, implementation of ARPA relief funds, and insights from funding recipients and project collaborators,” said Leslie Irwin, ARPA Administrator. “We are excited to share stories in the ARPA newsletter that will feature the latest developments for each project and how these funds will support those most affected by COVID-19 across Boulder County.”
ARPA Phase 2 Pandemic Recovery and Relief Projects include planned and ongoing programs for families and children, solutions to address housing affordability, and accessible programs for mental and behavioral health services amongst other transformative ideas for creating a stronger, more equitable Boulder County.
To read the previous newsletters go to ARPA Newsroom.
ARPA funds meetings recordings
- The ARPA Working Groups meetings are available on the link below. Please send your comments to ARPAinput@bouldercounty.org
- Watch the recording of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners Town Hall on public input of ARPA funds investment.
- Results from the ARPA Steering Committee’s six weeks of outreach to better understand the impact of COVID on community members.
ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Expenditure Categories
The Treasury Department launched this much-needed relief category to address the following:
- Support urgent COVID-19 public health response efforts to continue to decrease the spread of the virus;
- Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses;
- Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequal impact of the pandemic;
- Replace lost revenue for governments to strengthen vital public services and help retain jobs; and
- Make infrastructure investments in broadband, clean water, and wastewater facilities.
Treasury requires that local governments address disparate impacts and achieve equitable outcomes with ARPA funds and cites President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, signed on January 20, 2021. The BOCC stated its support for that executive order and for advancing racial equity in a Jan. 27, 2021, statement.
Boulder County’s annual recovery plan describes response and recovery efforts to date, community engagement and planning efforts, consideration of equity impacts and outcomes, actual and planned uses of funds, and other information required by Treasury. See the most recent ARPA SLFRF Recovery Plan Performance Report through June 30, 2022.