In March 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, which allocated $350 Million in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) to state, territorial, local and tribal governments across the U.S. to address the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. SLFRF funds were allowed to fund pandemic-related expenditures, premium pay for key personnel, infrastructure investments, and general government services impacted by pandemic-related lost government revenue.
Some three years later, state and local governments are now racing against impending deadlines to obligate SLFRF funds by December 31, 2024, and expend all SLFRF funds by December 31, 2026. SLFRF-funded projects run the gamut, from high-priority housing, workforce development, and violence prevention programs1 to long-neglected repair, renovation and relocation of local government offices, water and sewer upgrades, and broadband infrastructure.
With these deadlines on the horizon, state and local governments should consider the long-term sustainability of their SLFRF-funded programs and how they can continue to deliver valuable programs and services beyond the end of ARPA SLFRF funding.
Guidehouse is working with states, counties, and cities nationwide to develop effective sustainability frameworks and successfully plan for the post-ARPA environment. Based on our national expertise, Guidehouse recommends three key considerations to assess future needs and determine long-term sustainability for SLFRF-funded programs, focusing on future policy priority alignment, program efficacy and outcomes, and fiscal impact.
How have the needs of our constituents changed since 2020?
Since 2020, government entities at the local, state, and federal levels have focused on pandemic response and recovery. As time passes and recovery continues, the policy priorities of state and local governments are shifting away from pandemic relief and toward the needs of the future. The needs of 2026 and beyond will be different from the needs of 2020.
In 2021, addressing the most critical health needs of the pandemic was the primary focus. As time progressed and direct relief began to roll out, governments began to expand focus to other high-level priorities to support recovery. For local governments, this included priorities like housing and rental assistance, infrastructure, local business support, workforce development and community aid. For States, this included human services, unemployment insurance, economic development, education, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.2
What are the critical lessons learned and value delivered from programs administered with federal recovery dollars and how can that be measured?
The additional financial resources provided through SLFRF opened the opportunity for state and local governments to innovate with new policies, programs, and services within categories of eligible use. Leveraging program evaluation tools and data-driven insights, governments can develop a strong understanding of the efficacy and impact of new programs to inform future decisions about the allocation and reprioritization of resources.
Determining program impact helps prioritize future allocation of resources and can build a strong case for additional investments from federal grants, intergovernmental partnerships, or private support. As governments determine which programs have the greatest impact, the challenge is comparing the scale of impact of one program in one subject matter next to another distinct program in a different subject matter. How can the impact of apples be compared to oranges?
Governments can employ a diverse range of indicators, capturing different types of impact to develop a quantitative approach to inform resource allocation. This can include indicators of scale, reach, inputs, outputs, equity measures, and per capita measurements. Governments can also leverage various analysis tools and frameworks to inform this quantitative measure:
How can governments leverage lessons learned to address today’s most critical needs within the constraints of annual operating budgets?
With a comprehensive understanding of constituent needs and quantitative measures of program impact, state and local governments must determine where and how to allocate resources within fiscal limitations. These decisions should be driven by community needs, assessed against impact measurement, and understood through a fiscal lens.
Focusing on programs that deliver the greatest impact in meeting the most critical needs for communities, the question of dollars and cents remains. Within the context of fiscal impact, state and local governments should consider the following on a program basis:
Taking into account the above considerations–priority alignment, program outcomes, and performance and fiscal impact–state and local governments can shape an effective framework to guide future decision-making. These questions and approaches can lay the foundation for aligning limited financial resources with the highest priority and best use, leveraging lessons learned to help governments invest in top policy priorities beyond 2026.
Guidehouse is a leader in federal grants strategy, management, and compliance activities for state and local governments. With more than 65 state and local grants strategy/management clients nationwide, we bring skilled experts and technology solutions that help state and local governments optimize their use of federal funds and strategically plan for the future.
We engage with clients to create government efficiency. We help our clients develop and execute transformations and shared services models that improve operations and customer service. Guidehouse teams have the skills to formulate strategies, conduct feasibility studies, develop business cases, evaluate operational models, design improved organizations, and manage program effectiveness. Our team of experts works with our clients to implement organizational change management and technology enablement. We believe successful change, whether it is a change in procedure or a full system implementation, starts with your team and stakeholders.
We are experts in operational and organizational assessments. We know the needs of local government are complex and multi-faceted, and we know how to identify and capture that complexity in operational and organizational assessments. We have deep expertise in organizational assessments, business process redesign, strategic planning, and change management developed through vast experience with state and local governments nationwide. We have developed solutions to help our clients transform and redesign how they operate and do business that better aligns with citizens’ needs.
We understand the people side of change and know how to make change stick. We have the depth of experience you need and possess the tact and emotional intelligence to understand how to engage various actors and involved stakeholders. We know how to start the change management process early, engaging key stakeholders who will be responsible for enabling actions and experts who will understand the implications of levels of service delivery change to create broad alignment in defining future pathways. We develop practical short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations to create actionable roadmaps towards realizing broad transformative change and setting new directions responsive to local context.
We design, implement, and operate grants management programs. Our team has extensive experience with grants management, from the design of technology-based portals to the review of all grant requirements in accordance with the Federal Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR Part 200, as well as all program requirements and guidance issued by federal agencies. We fully understand and support monitoring, reporting, and compliance requirements. We have performed these services for more than 65 state and local governments relative to numerous federal funding sources, including all COVID-19-related response, recovery, and rebuilding legislation. Guidehouse has a team of professionals nationwide who form our Community Building and Investment Center of Excellence©, which closely monitors federal legislation to track and analyze each release of regulations and guidance.
This article was authored by Jennifer Kitson Jelenek, Grace Bridges, Jeffrey Meyers, and Sarah de Wolf.
1 Haskins, Lavea Brachman and Glencora. 2023. “The American Rescue Plan, Two Years Later: Analyzing Local Governments’ Efforts at Equitable, Transformative Change.” Brookings. March 9, 2023. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2023/03/09/the-american-rescue-plan-two-years-later-analyzing-local-governments-efforts-at-equitable-transformative-change/.
2 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 2021. “How States Can Best Use Federal Fiscal Recovery Funds: Lessons from State Choices so Far,” November 29, 2021. https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/how-states-can-best-use-federal-fiscal-recovery-funds-lessons-from.
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