Since the first case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was discovered in the United States in January 2020, the disease has infected over 32 million and killed over 575,000 Americans. The disease has impacted every part of life: as social distancing became a necessity, businesses closed, schools transitioned to remote education, travel was sharply reduced, and millions of Americans lost their jobs.
Amid this once-in-a-century crisis, state, local, and tribal governments have been called on to respond at an immense scale. Governments have faced myriad needs to prevent and address the spread of COVID-19, including testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, public communications, issuance and enforcement of health orders, expansions to health system capacity like alternative care facilities, and in recent months, a massive nationwide mobilization around vaccinations. Governments also have supported major efforts to prevent COVID-19 spread through safety measures in settings like nursing homes, schools, congregate living settings, dense worksites, incarceration settings, and public facilities. The pandemic’s impacts on behavioral health, including the toll of pandemic-related stress, have increased the need for behavioral health resources.
In responding to the public health emergency and its negative economic impacts, state, local, and tribal governments have seen substantial increases in costs to provide expanded services, often amid considerable declines in revenue due to the economic downturn and changing economic patterns during the pandemic.
Additionally, although the pandemic’s impacts have been widespread, both the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic have fallen most severely on communities and populations that were disadvantaged before it began. Low-income communities, people of color, and tribal communities have faced higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, as well as higher rates of unemployment and lack of basic necessities like food and housing. Unfortunately, the pandemic also has reversed many gains made by communities of color in the prior economic expansion.
ARPA is Signed into Law
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, thereby establishing two Fiscal Recovery Funds: the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery. The funds are intended to provide support to state, local, and tribal governments in responding to the impact of COVID-19 on their communities, residents, and businesses.
Through the Fiscal Recovery Funds, Congress provided State, local, and Tribal governments with significant resources to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its economic impacts through four categories of eligible uses:
1) To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;
2) To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;
3) For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and
4) To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
The importance of public input, transparency, and accountability are central to the implementation of the Fiscal Recovery Funds. Therefore, state, territorial, tribal, and local governments are urged to engage their constituents and communities in developing plans to use these payments, given the scale of funding and its potential to catalyze broader economic recovery and rebuilding.
What does this mean for Barnstable County?
Federal grant funds totaling $41.3 million were allocated to Barnstable County to expend between 2021 – 2026 on COVID-19 recovery efforts and regional investments in key areas. All 15 towns have also received federal ARPA funds. Barnstable County has received half of its allotment and will receive the other half in the spring of 2022.
The eligible use areas for Barnstable County’s allotment of ARPA funds, as approved by the Barnstable County Commissioners on November 10, 2021, are listed in order of priority as follows:
- Invest in water, sewer, and/or broadband.
- Fund public health system costs associated with the COVID response, and other costs and related capital investments necessary to strengthen the public health system of the County and its towns.
- Fund services for disproportionately impacted communities.
- Fund projects targeting the negative economic impacts of the COVID pandemic on households, small businesses, non-profits, impacted industries, and disproportionately impacted communities.
- Fund proposals to replace lost public sector revenue.
- Provide premium pay to employees providing essential work during COVID-19.
The Barnstable County Commissioner’s Office held a public comment period through 2/11/2022 for residents of Barnstable County and stakeholders to provide input and feedback on how the county’s ARPA funds should be prioritized and allocated. Click here to view the Community Engagement results.