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How Can The American Rescue Plan Help Public Entities Reopen Safely?

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on April 6, 2021
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If your school, municipality, or government agency is looking for additional funding to reopen safely or implement new COVID-19 safety protocols, there’s good news. The new American Rescue Plan includes billions of dollars to facilitate a safe reopening, invest in new technology, and more.

That’s in addition to the $150 billion in relief that’s still available to states, tribal governments, and certain local government agencies as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

While you can learn more about eligible expenses covered under both pools of funding in our latest resource, this post will focus on what’s covered under the American Rescue Plan.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan?

The American Rescue Plan, officially H.R. 1319 and often referred to as the stimulus package, is the $1.9 trillion relief bill signed into law on March 11.  

In addition to economic impact payments to about 159 million American households, the bill includes a $350 billion state and local fiscal recovery fund. This includes:

  • $195 billion for states, with each state to receive at least $500 million
  • $130 billion for local governments, with each state to receive at least $1.25 billion to distribute to its local entities
  • $20 billion for tribal governments
  • $4.5 billion for territories

This portion of the American Rescue Plan is intended to address revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional expenses public entities incurred while responding to the crisis, according to a White House news release.

In addition, the American Rescue Plan includes an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and additional funding for IT-related expenses. The plan also includes a $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund for states, territories, and tribal governments “to support capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring” in response to COVID-19. Each entity will receive at least $100 million with additional amounts allocated based on population.

When will public entities receive American Rescue Plan funding?

According to a National Law Review summary, the U.S. Department of Treasury will make payments to each state within 60 days of the state providing required reporting. Local government funds will receive the first round of funding by May 10, 2021, and the second by March 11, 2022. City and county governments will receive their funding directly. All other municipalities will receive their funding through states by May 10, 2021, and the states must distribute them within 30 days.

The deadline to spend these funds is December 31, 2024.

All entities are required to provide detailed reports with an explanation of how they used American Rescue plan funding. They will be required to repay the Treasury any funds they used in violation of the established guidelines.

What expenses are eligible for American Rescue Plan funding?

Local government expenses related to COVID-19

According to a legislative analysis by the National Association of Counties, this funding can be used for a wide range of expenses related to COVID-19, including:

  • Funds used to mitigate COVID-19 or its economic impact, including assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits, or affected industries
  • Investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure updates
  • Providing premium pay to employees who perform essential work
  • Capital projects used to respond to the crisis, including education and health monitoring
  • Supporting COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and hiring additional employees at public health departments
  • Community mental health services
  • Substance abuse prevention and treatment
  • Suicide prevention
  • Covering payroll, operations, and maintenance costs for public transportation due to lost revenue and employees laid off during the pandemic
  • Operations, personnel, and sanitation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in county-owned airports
  • Disaster relief funds provided to counties by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such as emergency food and shelter and response teams

The American Rescue Plan does specify that recovery funds cannot be used to offset a reduction in net tax revenue that results from a change in tax law during the covered period or fund any pension plan.

Expenses related to public schools

Each state will allocate funding for local schools to address issues related to the pandemic, including:

  • Programs to address learning loss, such as summer enrichment courses
  • Efforts to prevent and respond to coronavirus
  • Activities to address the needs of “low-income children, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth”
  • Training staff on COVID-19 sanitation protocols to minimize the spread of the virus
  • Supplies used for sanitizing classrooms
  • School facility repairs and improvements that reduce the risk of coronavirus, including improving ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • Any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Adult and Family Literacy Act, or the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006

COVID-19 safety expenses

Expenses related to colleges and universities

Colleges and universities may use American Rescue Plan funding to implement “evidence-based practices” to monitor and reduce the spread of coronavirus. They may also use it to grant additional financial aid to students who have experienced financial hardships as a result of the coronavirus, such as losing a job or having a parent who is unemployed.

IT-related expenses

Software House International (SHI) outlines additional IT-related expenses covered under the new American Rescue Plan, including funding to:

  • Improve cybersecurity and cloud readiness for state, local and tribal governments, and educational agencies
  • Improve information technology, data, and reporting through the US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Update IT systems for the US Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Update state unemployment systems
  • Support broadband and IT services

Investments that can help public entities maintain safe buildings

The American Rescue Plan is intended to help public agencies invest in additional resources, programs, capital improvements, and technologies that will help them minimize the spread of coronavirus and offset the many negative impacts it has had.

Whether they have remained opened or are planning to reopen soon, these agencies need to consider how they will limit capacity in their buildings, reconfigure spaces for physical distancing, monitor potential COVID-19 exposures, and sanitize shared surfaces, among other concerns.

As a leading provider of workplace and asset management software, iOFFICE offers comprehensive solutions to help you reopen your buildings and maintain COVID safety protocols.

Our space management software and space planning tool, Space-Right™, automatically adjusts your floor plans for physical distancing and helps you update seating arrangements, manage staggered shifts, and monitor occupancy levels so you can make adjustments as your needs change.

You can also protect employees with touchless visitor management software that includes wellness checks, mobile desk and room reservations, service requests, and wayfinding solutions to help employees navigate their new environment.

Learn more about how our solutions and resources can help your agency establish safer spaces now and prepare for the future of work.

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