Arlington’s ARPA Allocation Focuses on Recovery and Equity
Published on October 20, 2021
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz shared his proposal for the use of American Rescue Plan Act Funds and Fiscal Year 2021 Close-out funds during the Tuesday, Oct. 19, County Board meeting. The County Manager’s proposal is intended to meet the most significant needs for Arlington residents and businesses.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
In March 2021, President Biden signed ARPA legislation, which provides states and localities with funds to support the ongoing public health response and help communities recover. Arlington is receiving $46 million in two equal allotments. The first allotment was received in May 2021 and the second one will come in May 2022. The funds must be fully obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026.
Of the total ARPA funds, $3.8 million previously was approved by the County Board to restore cuts originally in the Proposed FY 2022 budget as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the restored funding supports the reopening of Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries and Arlington community centers, adds tourism funding, and enhances park maintenance funding. The Manager proposes that additional ARPA funds be used for ongoing support in these areas over the next two years.
Arlington’s top priority is ensuring the health and safety of Arlington County’s residents, businesses, and employees. In spring 2021, the County Board allocated $19 million of ARPA funding to support critical COVID-19 response and recovery efforts ranging from vaccines, testing, contact tracing to addressing significant financial challenges for residents (e.g., eviction prevention, food security, and rental assistance). The Manager now projects only $6 million in ARPA funding will be required this fiscal year for pandemic-related responses and is recommending a variety of other community priorities.
Earlier this fall, the County Board approved an allocation of $2 million to support a second round of small business grants that can be used to retain employees, restore financial resiliency, address temporary COVID-19 restrictions, increase technology capacity, create new marketing strategies, and/or revise business plans.
Based on the County Manager’s recommendation, $15.5 million will be used for innovative strategies to tackle some of our community’s most critical needs over the next few years, including:
Housing Assistance: Eviction prevention, a conditions assessment of affordable housing properties, and options for alternative landlord-tenant dispute resolution.
Community Recovery: Small business and workforce development programs.
Equity & Disadvantaged Neighborhoods: Expansion of the Crisis Intervention Center, support for food insecurity, childcare, homeless services, digital equity and other programs to meet critical community needs.
Transit & Transportation: Pilot program to waive ART fare revenue for students as well as a short-term low-income bus fare assistance to residents who meet certain income requirements and need transit to access jobs, healthcare, schools, and other opportunities.
There is an additional $7.4 million in unallocated funds that can be used to address other unforeseen needs identified in the coming months and years.
Of the $20.5 million available from the already-completed FY 2021 budget (Fiscal Year 2021 ended on June 30, 2021), the County Manager proposes $1.8 million to support a 1% mid-year pay raise for County employees in January 2022.
The County Board also took action on the Manager’s recommendation to allocate $1.9 million for bonuses to support police and emergency services health employees; as well as $174,000 to match state funding for bonuses for our sheriff’s office.
“I appreciate the County Board taking action tonight to allocate retention bonuses, which will include a $3,500 one-time payment for police and emergency services health employees. It has been extremely difficult to retain and hire qualified staff for these positions at a time when demand for services is exceptionally high with extreme risk to our community if left unfilled,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “I appreciate the County Board’s approach for supporting our residents, especially those in dire crisis.”
This leaves $16.6 million in unallocated close-out funds for future budget deliberations.
County Board FY 2023 Budget Guidance
During their October Board meeting, the County Board also issued guidance to the Manager for the FY 2023 budget that is consistent with the equity resolution, responsive to the health and safety needs of the community, and recognizes the dedication of County employees.
The County Board members expressed their sincere appreciation for employees and their public service to Arlington County. They also signaled strong support for the Manager to include increased compensation for employees during the FY 2023 budget process.
We value County employees who have been working under very difficult circumstances to step up and serve our community,” stated County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “The County Board guidance adopted today is intended to combat COVID, and invest in affordable housing, our public schools, economic recovery and environmental sustainability. As we balance these important priorities, we will also be considering additional steps to further compensate our greatest resource—our employees.”
The Board also directed the Manager to propose a balanced budget that includes continued implementation of collective bargaining and the Police Practices Group recommendations, as well as strategies to address stormwater challenges and a “whole of government” approach to climate change.
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