Update: In the spring of 2022, the nonprofit Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) hosted a six-week course about making the best use of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and other federal funding opportunities. Developed by Funkhouser & Associates with the support of AARP Livable Communities, the program guided more than two dozen practitioners and local government partners through sessions with experts on housing, health, mobility, open space and broadband internet access, all with a focus on livability and inclusion for all ages. The following articles provide information about the course and the lessons learned:
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Older Adults: Opportunities and Resources for Local Leaders, a report prepared by Funkhouser & Associates in partnership with AARP, highlights the ways local leaders can use the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to address community needs related to transit, mobility and open spaces; high-speed internet access; water, sewer and utility systems; housing and health.
Publication number: D20741
The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion law that includes $350 billion in direct, flexible aid — available via the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund — to states, counties, cities and tribal governments with populations of more than 50,000 people. (Eligible local governments that are classified as "non-entitlement units" — typically those with populations under 50,000 — should expect to receive this funding through their applicable state government.)
The American Rescue Plan and Local Governments
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — also referred to as the American Rescue Plan or ARPA — was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. In May, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its initial guidance, called the Interim Final Rule, which included some 150 pages of background, reasoning, spending categories and accounting guidelines for administering the legislation.
The funds are “intended to provide support to state, local and Tribal governments responding to the impact of COVID–19 and in their efforts to contain COVID–19 on their communities, residents, and businesses.” As part of that mission, the ARPA provides local government leaders with the chance to enhance the economic resilience of their communities by tapping resources that address persistent challenges while finding new and innovative solutions.
As local leaders weigh opportunities and make forward-looking investments, it's critical that spending decisions represent the voices of people of all ages, abilities, races and incomes. Input from the community can be ensured through a strong public engagement process.
The American Rescue Plan and AARP
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Older Adults: Opportunities and Resources for Local Leaders — a free, 28-page report prepared by Funkhouser & Associates in partnership with AARP — provides an overview of the Department of Treasury's guidance and highlights the ways local leaders can use the act to address community needs related to transit and mobility; open spaces; high-speed internet access; water, sewer and utility systems; housing and health.
The report can also help identify opportunities within the ARPA for enhancing a community's livability, and it explains how local leaders can work with AARP, including through:
- Local Outreach, Engagement, and Visibility: With 38 million members and tens of thousands of volunteers, AARP state offices in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can help local officials reach and engage older residents. In addition, AARP's extensive communication channels and can help raise the visibility of promising work locally, statewide and nationally.
Click on the image to read a letter from Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer for AARP, about the American Rescue Plan Act and the publication The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Older Adults: Opportunities and Resources for Local Leaders.
- Connecting to a Network: The AARP Network of-Age Friendly States and Communities — which currently includes eight states, one U.S. territory and nearly 600 towns, cities or counties — provides a framework and resources so communities can be livable for people of all ages. Enrolled communities interact often with AARP and peers throughout the country.
- Technical Assistance and Resources: AARP produces and provides free resources for local leaders, including publications, the weekly AARP Livable Communities e-Newsletter, articles about best practices, the interactive AARP Livability Index and more. These resources are often utilized by elected officials, influential stakeholders and community leaders.
- Grant Funding: Since its launch in 2017, the annual AARP Community Challenge has awarded $9.3 million to 804 "quick-action" projects across every state, with AARP funding projects that help improve public spaces, transportation, housing , civic engagement and — by focusing on diversity, inclusion and disparities — the revitalization of communities adversely impacted by the pandemic.
- Research and Data: AARP Research and the AARP Public Policy Institute publishes and information about the needs and wants of older adults in local communities and can provide valulable insights about the ways specific policies may impact the lives of older residents.
The American Rescue Plan and Older Adults
The funding streams made available through the ARPA present an opportunity to make catalytic investments and improve livability for all residents.
However, since the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted different communities and populations in different ways, it's also important to recognize the necessity of some targeted approachs to policymaking and spending, including those prioritizing the needs of older adults.
The American Rescue Plan publication prepared by Funkhouser & Associates in partnership with AARP can better enable local governments and leaders to:
- Engage older residents in order to gain an understanding of their experiences throughout the pandemic — and their needs and priorities during the recovery
- Use the information and guidance presented to help inform their thinking and planning — particularly about improving livability around the needs of older adults — as they prioritize investments with funding under the American Rescue Plan Act.
- Work with AARP state offices to utilize local and national AARP resources. (Contact information for AARP's state offices can be found via States.AARP.org.)
- Share pressing challenges and requests for helpful resources by emailing AARP at livable@AARP.org.
Page published August 2021, updated July 2022
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