December 8, 2021
Next Steps for ARPA Federal Funds and the Second Phase of Community Engagement and Planning Process Announced
BOCC and Working Groups will focus on three main areas of investment: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience.
Boulder County, Colo. -- The Boulder County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) announced next steps for the process of determining how to best invest federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to address the needs of individuals most impacted by COVID-19. Three working groups will be created to work from January through March 2022 to identify and recommend project, program, and policy solutions that address the three main challenges identified in phase one of the community engagement process: Economic Challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience.
Working groups will be comprised of community members, nonprofit leaders, policy experts and county leadership and staff with expertise in the focus areas. The process will include a forum of national experts and an ideas symposium, and draw from thought-leaders and best practices to create opportunities for transformative solutions for a stronger, more equitable Boulder County. Community members with expertise in the focus areas who are interested in applying can do so by Dec. 14 at this link.
The focus areas are based on insights and ideas collected from residents of Boulder County in the first phase of the process. “The participation of Boulder County residents has been invaluable as we gain insights to understand how residents have been most affected by the pandemic and how we can co-design solutions. I deeply appreciate the community partners who worked through 2021 to co-create the Phase I community engagement process and continue to lead the ARPA Community Steering Committee,” said Commissioner Marta Loachamin. A report on outcomes from phase one can be found on the ARPA website at boco.org/arpa.
Economic challenges are the number one issue identified as affecting Boulder County residents and businesses. Many survey respondents raised the interconnected issues of cost of living, small business needs, workforce development, childcare, and other economic issues. This particular working group will recommend initiatives that address economic challenges within the community, with a specific emphasis on the issues that were magnified by the pandemic.
“The lack of affordable housing in Boulder County existed before the pandemic, straining household budgets to a point where there was no cushion. For some community members, loss of income during the pandemic and additional expenses required to stay safe exacerbated their housing instability. The combination of ARPA dollars and the potential to leverage other available funding provides a unique opportunity to make significant housing investments in Boulder County,” said Commissioner Claire Levy. The Housing Affordability group will investigate solutions to make inroads into the housing crisis in Boulder County for both renters, owners and those who aspire to become homeowners.
The Mental Health and Social Resilience working group will investigate options that bring communities together and address mental health and public health challenges as well as social isolation, including access to technology. “Mental health and social resilience were worsened by the pandemic due to social isolation, stress or fear, or many other reasons, as shown by increased suicide rates and depression, workforce burnout, and substance use. These are tough and important issues to address, and I appreciate that ARPA funds provide an opportunity to meaningfully invest dollars to improve mental health and resilience for Boulder County residents,” said Commissioner Matt Jones.
Boulder County received $63.3 million in ARPA funds to help respond to community needs and address the negative economic and disparate impacts of COVID-19. The BOCC is partnering with Rebuild by Design, the Community Foundation of Boulder County, and local community partners to identify policies, programs, and projects that will improve outcomes for the people of Boulder. For more information and updates visit the American Rescue Plan Act webpage at boco.org/arpa.