GFOA publishes recommended guiding principles for spending American Rescue Plan dollars
Guiding Principles include:
Temporary Nature of ARPA Funds. ARPA funds are non-recurring so their use should be applied primarily to non-recurring expenditures.
- Care should be taken to avoid creating new programs or add-ons to existing programs that require an ongoing financial commitment.
- Replenishing reserves used to offset revenue declines during the pandemic should be given high priority to rebuild financial flexibility/stability and restore fiscal resiliency.
- Use of ARPA funds to cover operating deficits caused by COVID-19 should be considered temporary and additional budget restraint may be necessary to achieve/maintain structural balance in future budgets.
- Investment in critical infrastructure is particularly well suited use of ARPA funds because it is a non-recurring expenditure that can be targeted to strategically important long- term assets that provide benefits over many years. However, care should be taken to assess any on-going operating costs that may be associated with the project.
ARPA Scanning and Partnering Efforts. State and local jurisdictions should be aware of plans for ARPA funding throughout their communities.
- Local jurisdictions should be cognizant of state-level ARPA efforts, especially regarding infrastructure, potential enhancements of state funding resources, and existing or new state law requirements.
- Consider regional initiatives, including partnering with other ARPA recipients. It is possible there are many beneficiaries of ARPA funding within your community, such as schools, transportation agencies and local economic development authorities. Be sure to understand what they are planning and augment their efforts; alternatively, creating cooperative spending plans to enhance the structural financial condition of your community.
Take Time and Careful Consideration. ARPA funds will be issued in two tranches to local governments. Throughout the years of outlays, and until the end of calendar year 2024, consider how the funds may be used to address rescue efforts and lead to recovery.
- Use other dedicated grants and programs first whenever possible and save ARPA funds for priorities not eligible for other federal and state assistance programs.
- Whenever possible, expenditures related to the ARPA funding should be spread over the qualifying period (through December 31, 2024) to enhance budgetary and financial stability.
- Adequate time should be taken to carefully consider all alternatives for the prudent use of ARPA funding prior to committing the resources to ensure the best use of the temporary funding.
The influx of funds will undoubtedly benefit state and local finances, and aid in the recovery from the budgetary, economic, and financial impacts of the pandemic. Rating agencies will evaluate a government’s use of the ARPA funds in formulating its credit opinion and, importantly, will consider your government’s level of reserves and structural budget balance, or efforts to return to structural balance, as part of their credit analysis. Finance officers will play a critical role in highlighting the need to use ARPA funds prudently with an eye towards long-term financial stability and sustainable operating performance. The funding provided under ARPA provides a unique opportunity for state and local governments to make strategic investments in long-lived assets, rebuild reserves to enhance financial stability, and cover temporary operating shortfalls until economic conditions and operations normalize.