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, with half of the funding received in 2021 and the remainder anticipated to be disbursed in mid-2022.
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 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. 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.
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 widespread 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 process for collecting feedback in Phase 1 entailed six weeks of in-person and online outreach (September 1st – October 15th), in partnership with community 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 people’s concerns. The BOCC hosted an ARPA-focused Town Hall that took place on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, and gathered a community survey – Boulder County Wants to Hear from You! – from Boulder County residents, businesses, workers, and students. Watch the Town Hall video and learn more about the ways to use the funding, the community engagement process, and Q&A from Boulder County residents! Surveys were collected through October 15, 2021, online in Nepali, Spanish, and English, in person at many local events throughout Boulder County, in community newsletters, and more. 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 Planning Process
The Boulder County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and ARPA Steering Committee completed the process to appoint three ARPA working groups in December 2021, moving into the next phase of Community Engagement and Planning. The ARPA Steering Committee in November invited applications to join the inaugural working groups from community members that understand the diverse interests and needs of Boulder County and can speak first-hand to the needs of those most impacted by COVID-19. Members were appointed in the three working group focus areas of Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience.
The first meeting of the ARPA working groups was a full-day virtual meeting on February 28th, 2022. The session consisted of educational and informative workshops to brief all participants on the impacts of COVID-19 in the county, 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 Working Group’s Meetings YouTube channel.
ARPA Working Groups Schedule
Kick-off meeting: February 28, 2022
Working Group Sessions: March and April
Presentation to BOCC: May 2022
Each of the working groups included a community partner and County staff as co-leads and a County Commissioner as a sponsor to support the process. Please follow the link for detailed information on the structure, roles, and responsibilities of each one of the working groups and its members.
The groups proposed recommendations to the BOCC that support ARPA investments in each of the three focus areas.
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. Proposed projects not approved on June 14 are still under consideration.
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
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
ARPA Funds Timeline
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.
On August 18, Commissioners Marta Loachamin, Claire Levy, and Matt Jones gathered with members of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Working Groups at an outdoor celebration to express their appreciation for the time and expertise the group provided as part of the community engagement and planning process.
Working Group members volunteered their time to bring recommendations for the areas of great concern for the Boulder County community: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, Mental Health and Social Resilience. Last May, ARPA Working Groups held a public hearing, available in English and Spanish, to present the proposals for the equitable distribution of federal funds in Boulder County.
The Commissioners recently approved $46,480,000 for recovery projects as part of the second round of funding for COVID-19 Recovery.
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 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.
The Treasury Department 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 their support for that executive order and for advancing racial equity in a Jan. 27 statement.
Boulder County’s initial 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 the Treasury Department. The subsequent report in July 2022 will further expand Boulder County’s approach, goals, and measurable outcomes.