The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill that was signed into law by President Biden on March 11th of this year. This coronavirus rescue package includes $65.1 billion of direct and flexible aid to America’s cities, towns and villages which is designed to facilitate the United States’ recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For city leaders to address the challenges that their communities are facing, they must understand the variety of available resources and develop a strategy to interweave the recovery fund from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the other financial resources that are flowing from the Commerce and Agriculture Departments, from Health and Human Services, and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
An example of great use of ARPA funds is the initiative that a city in Southern California has implemented. The Oxnard City Council is allocating $2.5 million of the city’s $59 million from its American Rescue Plan funds on essential worker COVID premium pay for retail grocery and drug store workers. The measure will give $1,000 bonuses to anyone who worked at least three months in a grocery store or pharmacy during the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Not only can recipients use ARPA funds to provide premium pay for essential workers, but also to aid vulnerable families in debt to municipalities, support housing stability, and income security.
Local leaders have broad flexibility in determining how to effectively use the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds as long as they allocate it in one of these categories:
- Off set Public Health/Economic Impacts from COVID-19
- Premium pay
- Government services to the extent of lost revenue
- Necessary investment in sewer, water, and broadband infrastructure
State and local governments can include a broad swath of workers for premium pay eligibility, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Staff at nursing homes, hospitals, and home-care settings
- Workers at farms, food production facilities, grocery stores, and restaurants
- Janitors and sanitation workers
- Public health and safety staff
- Truck drivers, transit staff, and warehouse workers
- Childcare workers, educators, and school staff
- Social service and human services staff
State and local leaders can guarantee just and equitable recovery by giving the ARPA funds back to the community and to the hands of essential workers. Frontline essential workers faced significant exposure to COVID-19 and put their lives on the line for the rest of their communities. For that reason, they should be fairly compensated, supported, recognized, and protected. Premium pay is a way to compensate these workers for the dangers they faced during the pandemic. We cannot forget their efforts, nor overlook the underlying inequalities and inadequate wages that prevail.
About the Author:
Lizbeth Olarte was a Karel Fellow, serving as an intern with NLCs Digital Engagement, Marketing & Communications team.