American Rescue Plan (ARP) and Equity Initiatives

The term “equity initiatives” is vague as it encompasses incredibly broad categories and interdependent institutions such as the built environment, distribution of resources, transportation, and education to name a few. When local governments receive large amounts of funding, such as that granted by the American Rescue Plan, creating equity initiatives can seem like a daunting task. Many local governments wish to encourage equitable growth but can be intimidated by such broad and deeply ingrained issues. The American Rescue Plan Act requires that SLFRF award funds be fully obligated by December 31st, 2024, and must be expended by December 31st, 2026. In addition, the Treasury requires regular reporting depending on government size, and extensive documentation to indicate how the funding was utilized.

The American Rescue Plan and corresponding State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds has provided an unprecedented opportunity for governments across the nation to not only recover from COVID-19, but to address compounding disparities. While comprehensively addressing inequality will require more time and resources, governments have the potential to make new and/or expanded equity initiatives. Focusing on the Southeastern U.S., this paper examines the application of an equity framework by metropolitan cities and counties during the allocation and implementation of SLFRF. By incorporating an equity lens and community engagement tactics into their planning process via an equity framework, local governments have the power to encourage a more robust equity-centric planning process.