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Bryan Carruthers: Keeping Front Page Focus on the American Rescue Plan

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The thing about politics is that when a spending measure or a bill are being debated, they dominate the airwaves.  However, once they are passed into law, the media focus shifts to the next political soap opera debate, leaving the implementation and rollout of the new bill as “back page filler” rather than “front page focus.”

 

 

This is exactly what has happened with the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Infrastructure Bill.  Through the spring of 2021, we all listened to the often repeated talking points by Democrats and Republicans during the negotiations, the breakdown of negotiations, and the subsequent budget reconciliation process to ultimately pass the $1.9 Trillion ARP in March of 2021.  The front-page news was full of political soundbites claiming that what was included in the package was too little to be meaningful or too large and unfocused and would bring fiscal ruin to the country, but very little coverage actually spoke to what was in the $1.9 Trillion.

 

Then it passed and became relegated to the back pages of the media and our thoughts.  The front-page is now dedicated to an Infrastructure Bill and what it should or should not include, but before we become completely enthralled with the new round of mudslinging, we should spend some more time focused on the ARP.  The $1.9 Trillion ARP is packed full of opportunities for communities and organizations of all political affiliation that are interested not only in replacing lost revenues during the pandemic, or in offering new assistance programs, but also in getting a jump on improving their infrastructure and providing the returns to their communities of $2.50 for every $1.00 spent[1] that infrastructure investment provides. 

ARP - A GREAT PLACE TO START:

An overview of some of the funding available in ARP that can be used to spur capital project and infrastructure investment :

$10 Billion for States,Territories and Tribes

$10 Billion for states, territories and Tribes to “cover the cost of capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring…”

$1.76 Billion goes to FTA

$1.76 Billion in Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grants

$130 Billion goes to Cities & Counties

Cities and Counties are set to receive $130 Billion which can be used to make “necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure”.

$5 Billion goes to State & Local Government

State and Local Governments will receive $5Billion that can be used towards “…construction of new affordable housing and permanent supportive housing

$122.7 Billion goes to Public K-12

Public K12 schools will receive $122.7 Billion that can be used, amongst other purposes to make
“…infrastructure upgrades to transition to in person, reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and learning and make buildings healthy and environmentally safe.”

$195.3 Billion goes to State Fiscal relief

Another $195.3 Billion is set for State Fiscal relief. These funds can be used to provide government services or assistance programs, but they can also be used for “making necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.”

And then there are also the less immediately direct benefits to infrastructure from the ARP which will come through programs such as low-income energy and heating assistance, low-income household water assistance and childcare.  Many capital projects in power and water are funded through customer rate payments.  Assistance to those struggling to pay their bills will improve the rate collection needed to support rate driven capex projects.  Childcare assistance will allow individuals to return to work, including essential workers building the infrastructure.  A larger talent pool may reduce some of the labor cost pressures on those projects. Another indirect benefit to infrastructure projects from childcare support is that the return to work for all individuals will allow them to pay their income, property and sales taxes.  These revenue streams are often leveraged to fund infrastructure investment.

 

Congress will continue their debates over what an Infrastructure Bill will or won’t include, but we don’t need to wait for them to settle on a path forward to start our work to improve our infrastructure.  The ARP is filled with opportunities to begin investing to improve our crumbling infrastructure.  Infrastructure investments benefit the staunchest republicans, democrats, and all flavors of political affiliation in between.  The amount of funding provided in ARP and a likely infrastructure bill, no matter the final construction of that bill, is a once in a generation opportunity to improve our infrastructure. While the Infrastructure Bill dominates the front-page headlines, the ARP has already laid out the runway for successful infrastructure investment.

 

We just need to be willing to keep it in focus.

[1] https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/its-time-for-states-to-invest-in-infrastructure

[2]https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5d9f9365f67b454b1ce2dc2f/t/606654f05891ec61887009a8/1617319163097/American+Rescue+Plan+Federal+Investment+Guide.pdf