Guide to Local Recovery Update: August 3

Aug 3, 2022

The federal government opened a critical railroad safety improvement grant program early. Additionally, the Local Infrastructure Hub, a partnership between the National League of Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies, is holding a webinar about the federal Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. The National League of Cities also released new data about how cities are using American Rescue Plan Act funds, including in the arts.  

Railroad safety improvement grant program launched 

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Rail Administration opened its Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program early. The move was made in response to several devasting rail crashes, including one in California. In 2021, there were approximately 2,148 grade crossing incidents, resulting in 236 deaths and 662 injuries.

The $573 million program will improve safety in communities, reduce wait times at railroad crossings, and help freight move goods more efficiently and affordably across the country. Specific, eligible projects include grade separation, track relocation, improvement or installation of protective devices, and other projects meant to improve safety. Planning, environmental review, and other preliminary design elements are also eligible for grant funding. Applications are due Oct. 4.

Additional resources from the Department of Transportation are available on the DOT Navigator.

Middle mile broadband grant webinar 

The Local Infrastructure Hub, a partnership between the National League of Cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and others, will hold an Aug. 16 webinar on the federal Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. Middle mile refers to the final leg of infrastructure needed to provide internet to a customer and is an important step in creating more equitable internet access.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration also has several resources to help cities with their grant applications, which are due Sept. 30. Additionally, Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with the U.S. Conference of Mayors for a series of workshops about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) reporting requirements and general best practices for seeking federal grants. 

New data highlights how cities are spending ARPA funding

The National League of Cities recently updated its Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker. The tool tracks data submitted to the U.S. Treasury of the Department and reflects the decisions of 89 cities and 240 counties with at least 250,000 residents. 

The new data shows that many cities and counties budgeted about 40% of their total allocations by the end of 2021, with government operations accounting for the largest shared of budgeted funds. However, the study also found that ARPA dollars are spread evenly across other priorities, such as public health and infrastructure. Many cities are now seeking to leverage the funding with other grants, such as CARES Act funding or the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

NLC also released a fact-sheeting detailing how cities are using ARPA funding to rebuild the arts and strengthen community economic development, public spaces, health, and wellbeing. The pandemic had a devasting effect on the arts sector, which experienced some of the most severe levels of unemployment. Investing in the arts can provide indirect benefits to other areas, such as housing, public space, mental health, and community engagement. 

The fact sheet specifically lists the city of San Francisco as a case study. The city partnered with several local arts organizations to develop language and sites for public health messaging. 

City officials looking for additional information about the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or additional recovery tools can visit the Cal Cities Guide to Local Recovery portal.