The American Rescue Plan one year later: How cities are using this transformative funding

Mar 9, 2022

One year ago, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), delivering $8 billion in direct, flexible pandemic recovery funding to cities throughout California. This funding empowered cities to manage the public health emergency, address urgent needs in their community, respond to long-term fiscal impacts, and pave the way for a more equitable recovery.

The federal relief package became law following a nearly year-long advocacy effort by the League of California Cities’ Support Local Recovery coalition, which included dedicated California city officials, local businesses, and federal partners like the National League of Cities.

After the law’s passage, Cal Cities quickly recognized that cities needed more than fiscal relief to jumpstart recovery in their communities; they needed support during the implementation process. Cal Cities worked closely with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the California Department of Finance to streamline the application process and provide officials with related resources. As a result, California was one of the first states to distribute federal relief funds to all municipalities.

Cities are hard at work deploying those dollars to fund transformative projects.  

For example, the city of Chico allocated $4.5 million to a countywide system for primary first responders, $1.2 million for a citywide broadband project, and $800,000 for individual and family-oriented shelters for unhoused residents.

Santa Ana distributed its funds under five main categories: pandemic recovery, direct assistance programs, public health and safety, critical infrastructure, and city fiscal health. This includes $16 million in direct assistance to residents, $1.5 million for first responder services, and $7 million for a new library branch.

In a move that gained national recognition, Oxnard directed $2.5 million to essential worker premium pay for retail grocery and drug store workers. Anyone who worked at least three months in a grocery store or pharmacy during the first 12 months of COVID-19 was eligible for a $1,000 bonus.

Cities also used ARPA dollars to expand critical public services. Davis used $1 million to help fund emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing, $1.2 million to expand emergency mental health services, and $790,000 for public safety reform.

Grover Beach allocated $800,000 for homeless services and facilities, $300,000 in small business support, $150,000 to support local nonprofits, and $300,000 for sewer line upgrades. 

San Jacinto used $5 million for the relocation and drilling of a new well, which will provide the city with potable water. The original well was maintained well beyond its expected life cycle but is now unstable due to structural failure.

Other cities used the funding to upgrade local streets and roads. Irvine earmarked $6 million to improve walkability, bike use, and shared transportation options, as well as $5.2 million for the development of parks and open spaces. Similarly, Los Angeles allocated $15 million for alleys and pedestrian safety improvements.

Other cities used the funding to fill lost positions or prevent cuts to city services. Anaheim, which relies heavily on tourism, borrowed heavily to keep the city running during the pandemic. The city used $108 million in funding for revenue replacement. In the city of San Diego, $149.3 million will be used to maintain essential services that would have otherwise been eliminated or reduced due to the pandemic.

These are just a handful of the ways cities are using their ARPA dollars to create meaningful change for generations of Californians.

Do you have an example of how the American Rescue Plan Act is creating tangible change in your community? The Cal Cities #LocalWorks initiative shines the spotlight on examples of local actions that are making a difference to their communities. Show how #LocalWorks in your community by contacting