NLC First Vice President Testifies Before Congress on Success of Local COVID Relief Funds

Tacoma, Washington Mayor Victoria Woodards shares how ARPA investments have been a lifeline for communities of all sizes across the country.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, National League of Cities (NLC) Vice President Mayor Victoria Woodards of Tacoma, Washington, testified on behalf of NLC before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in a hearing on the impact of the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF).

In March of 2021, President Biden signed ARPA into law, providing $350 billion to intergovernmental partners, including $45.57 billion worth of assistance for metropolitan cities like the City of Tacoma. This critical investment helped cities manage the public health emergency, address urgent community needs, anticipate long-term impacts of the pandemic, and pave the way for a more equitable long-term recovery.

To watch a recording of Mayor Woodards’ testimony, click here. Below is an excerpt from Mayor Woodards’ remarks as delivered:

“In the spring of 2020, our nation faced an unprecedented public health emergency with  devastating economic repercussions for our communities. There was a nation-wide shutdown of businesses, schools, services, entertainment and more to stop the spread of COVID-19. This shutdown, which was needed, halted all local economies resulting in the national economic crisis at the same time of a national public health crisis. Local governments like Tacoma continued to provide critical services during this time to keep our city running and meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.

As the pandemic continued, City of Tacoma employees continued to provide essential services, and the city absorbed unforeseen costs across every municipal department while overseeing the local public health response and addressing community needs. Preexisting problems and inequities within our city were exacerbated by the crisis. Sadly, many constituents caught the virus and experienced related health problems, while the broader community contended with its impacts including job loss, income insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness, food insecurity, and declining business. The federal government relied on their partners at the local level to address these challenges. And we did so, for nearly a year, without access to any direct or flexible funding.

That changed in March of 2021 when lawmakers passed the American Rescue Plan Act, providing $350 billion to intergovernmental partners, including $45.57 billion worth of assistance for Metropolitan cities like the City of Tacoma. My colleagues and I heralded the arrival of those critical resources last spring, which empowered us to manage the public health emergency, address the urgent needs of our community, anticipate long-term impacts, and pave the way for a more equitable recovery. We would not have been able to accomplish that without the critical federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Tacoma faced over $59 million worth of estimated revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health emergency. During 2020, the city took quick action to reduce expenses through program eliminations, hiring reductions, and temporary furloughs to address the projected revenue losses. Based on the projected losses of 2021 and 2022, the City of Tacoma planned significant cuts to our essential and basic community services.

Our story is not unique. But what is unique is that the SLFRF program transferred the decision-making process from the federal government to local governments, empowering those who know their communities best with resources to enact real, immediate, impactful change. This is a major step forward in recognizing the vital role of local economies in stabilizing our national economy and bolstering our collective recovery.”

NLC, Brookings Metro and the National Association of Counties (NACo) recently launched the Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker, an online resource that compiles information from local governments to offer a detailed picture of how large cities and counties are deploying SLFRF dollars. The tool tracks more than $18 billion in SLFRF investments across 152 local governments.

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The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.