September 21, 2021 | Main Spotlight: Funding Main Street Recovery through American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Dollars | By: Kelly Humrichouser, Director of Government Relations, Main Street America |
Aerial shot of Downtown San Marcos. Photo courtesy of San Marcos Main Street. Photo credit: Andy Heatwole
Main Streets and small businesses are benefiting from the strategic use of ARPA State and Local Recovery Funds through the advocacy and innovation of local leaders and decision-makers.
An influx of recovery funding to states, counties, and cities through the American Rescue Plan Act has huge potential to spark the economic recovery of downtowns and commercial corridors. As guidance for eligible uses emerges, so have several key examples for funding downtown housing, small business support, and Main Street capacity. These examples offer Main Street programs a touchpoint for further dialogue and advocacy for downtown recovery.
In March, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law, including Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds – $350 billion of flexible funding distributed to states, counties, and cities. These funds represent a monumental opportunity for pandemic recovery through an approach tailored to the specific needs in each community and geography and an emphasis on equity. In the six months since the package's passage, state and local leaders have been working to find the right balance between community-identified priorities and the Treasury Department's evolving guidance on eligible uses and reporting.
Treasury's Interim Final Rule, a document released in May giving initial guidance to state and local leaders, laid a foundation for how ARPA funds can help Main Street recover. Among eligible uses of ARPA funds to respond to negative economic impacts, the guidance explicitly allowed funding to support business districts. To best position downtown as the center of community recovery, many local Main Street programs leapt into action to advocate for a seat at the table in local decision-making, using data and talking points to convey the needs for investment in Main Street. At the state level, coordinating programs have sought to identify strategic projects to best position Main Street programs as agents of community recovery.
As recent a Brookings article indicates, the rollout of funding plans from large cities suggests a slower approach to allocating ARPA funds than initially anticipated. Many communities are awaiting Treasury’s next round of guidance while others are utilizing community feedback forms or grant application processes to determine local uses. Still, with the burst of advocacy for Main Street, several key examples of use from Main Street communities are percolating in a slow but growing drip. Learn more about a few of these initiatives below:
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