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Revised ARPA Regulations: Good News for Communities

Last week’s publication by the US Treasury, “Final Rule for the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund,” brought welcome news to local government leaders in communities receiving less than $10 Million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds.

While volumes of information on ARPA have been published, much directly from the US Treasury, previous language and varied interpretations gave many community leaders anxiety about acceptable uses for the funding.  Some municipal boards even considered rejecting the funds, speculating that federal reporting requirements might overwhelm their limited-capacity staff. 

“For many, the potential for unintended non-compliance seemed great,” said Matt Horn, Head of MRB Group’s SmarterLocalGov team.  He and his colleagues hosted several Roundtable Discussions on ARPA, to provide information and assure communities that they could “take a breath!” 

“There was a language barrier, and a level of uncertainty,” Horn said, noting that legal contract terminology isn’t easily deciphered and can often sound punative.  To add to the concern, reporting requirements were referenced in earlier documentation, but not well-defined.

“With this Final Rule, many of the restrictions that were confusing have been eliminated,” he continued.  “And we’re expecting compliance reporting to be a lighter lift.”

In the latest information published by the US Treasury, acceptable project types have been significantly expanded.  According to Horn, MRB Group recommends a strategic approach and planning for optimal use of ARPA/CFRF funds. 

“We’d like to see communities utilize these resources to their maximum benefit,” he stated. 

“Understanding the bigger picture might help communities stretch those benefits even further, with a focus on projects that aren’t typically supported by public funds,” he said.  “Secondly, modernization projects, or those that lower operational costs, have the potential to increase positive financial impacts and make them recur, maximizing long-term savings.”

“Having come from a background in local government operations, our team members think differently,” Horn continued.  “We help communities work towards sustainability, not just environmentally, but also operationally and financially.”

Horn explained that his team is helping community leaders consider options in utilizing ARPA/CFRF funding, including leveraging funding to stretch other forms of financial support further.  He invites community leaders looking for ideas to reach out to his team, to participate in roundtable discussions, and to take advantage of the ideas of other community leaders whose research and model uses might inspire innovation.

“At MRB Group, our goal is to facilitate that same kind of knowledge-sharing, so that everyone benefits,” Horn said, noting that strengthening local governments is the mission of his SmarterlocalGov team.

For more information on ARPA funds or to access MRB Group’s local government resources, visit www.mrbgroup.com.