Guide to Local Recovery Update: Jan. 18

Jan 18, 2023

In a major win for cities, federal lawmakers added new flexibility to how cities can spend American Rescue Plan Act dollars and gave the U.S. Department of the Treasury the authority needed to restore critical technical assistance programs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extended deadlines for its recycling and solid waste grant applications and new recovery resources are available from the National League of Cities and the Local Infrastructure Hub.

New ARPA flexibility

The final federal budget package for 2023 added new flexibility to how cities can spend the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds (SLFRF). Securing additional flexibility for federal funding has been a major priority for the League of California Cities.

Known as ARPA Flex, these new, eligible grant expenditures will include:

  • Spending to provide emergency relief from natural disasters, including temporary emergency housing, food assistance, financial assistance for lost wages, or other immediate needs.
  • Spending on transportation infrastructure eligible projects and matching funds.
  • Spending on any program, project, or service that would also be eligible under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.

    The new flexibility will not be unlimited. The amendment caps the amount a grantee may spend on these new purposes at $10 million or 30% of the total grant amount — whichever is greater. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is expected to finalize these changes in February.

Additionally, the bill also provides the Treasury Department with the authority needed to restore live administrative and technical assistance to grantees. These services were largely shuttered or automated after funding ran low. Restoring these services was essential, as many cities needed support from the Treasury Department during reporting periods.

Cal Cities actively supported ARPA Flex provisions for over a year through federal advocacy in Congress. Most recently, these efforts included partnering with the National League of Cities and California cities in key congressional districts to advocate for these provisions in the federal budget package. Cal Cities will continue to advance cities’ interests at the federal level this year.

Recycling and solid waste grant applications deadline extended

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extended deadlines for its Recycling Education and Outreach Grant Program and the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling Grant Program to Feb. 15. Both programs received an infusion of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Approximately 40% of the funding for both programs will be directed to disadvantaged communities.

The education and outreach program supports projects that inform the public about recycling programs, increase collection rates, and decrease contamination in recycling. The solid waste infrastructure program supports the implementation of a circular economy and improvements to local post-consumer materials management programs and local waste management systems.

Last year’s infrastructure law also mandated the development of a model recycling program toolkit. This toolkit can be used by grant applicants to help design or improve recycling, composting, and other material management programs.

Local Infrastructure Hub events

The Local Infrastructure Hub — a partnership between several local government associations — announced a slate of recovery webinars focused on transportation, technology, and water infrastructure.

On Jan. 31, policy experts will discuss how funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law can be integrated for different types of infrastructure projects. The briefing will focus on green infrastructure — nature-based projects that filter and absorb stormwater where it falls. Details for the remaining webinars have yet to be announced.

NLC resources

The National League of Cities released two key resources for cities, including a fact sheet on how cities can use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to increase housing stability. Stable living conditions have been linked to better economic mobility, health, job security, and academic growth. ARPA-funded programs, which are available to local governments and their partners, include:

NLC also released a short primer on economic mobility. Research shows that even a modest savings of $250 allows families to better weather income drops and makes them less likely to rely on local services. However, studies have also found that Americans are less economically mobile than individuals in other wealthy countries.

The resource identifies several policy and programmatic levers that cities can use to improve economic mobility. All cities, regardless of size, can play an important role in boosting the economic mobility of their residents.

City officials looking for additional information about the American Rescue Plan Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, or additional recovery tools can visit the Cal Cities Guide to Local Recovery portal.