American Rescue Plan Talking Points for Michigan’s Local Governments

Posted on March 23, 2021 by Dene Westbrook

The Michigan Municipal League has received a lot of questions about the recently approved American Rescue Plan from our members. Many of your answers can be found in this blog by the League’s Chris Hackbarth. But we’ve also received feedback from members seeking best practices about how to discuss the American Rescue Plan with the public and media. In response, we’ve prepared the following talking points and common questions and answers to help guide you. Feel free to use these talking points and questions and answers below and adjust them to fit your community’s needs.

Local Official American Rescue Plan Talking Points

  • The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) represents a historic moment for [insert community name].
  • This financial support is an opportunity to invest in our future by building community wealth.
  • The funds are also a long overdue acknowledgement of local government’s outsized role in the day-to-day services that support a high quality of life.
  • History: This pandemic has put our communities through hell.
  • This fresh hell is on top of more than 20 years of persistent disinvestment and erosion of local control and decision-making ability for our community.
    • We know the story, Headlee, Proposal A, revenue sharing cuts, pre-emption of local control, etc.
    • Since 2000, Michigan communities have lost more than $9 billion to these policy decisions.
  • [Insert community name] has done more with less for two decades, and the American Rescue Plan is a lifeline that will help ensure our community can host, support, and accelerate a robust recovery for all our residents.
  • Crisis after crisis we have stepped up to find creative, innovative ways to serve our residents.
    • We’ve endured through population decline, once in a lifetime flooding, infrastructure failure, social and racial unrest, economic devastation, major demographic shifts, drug epidemics, declining public health—both physical and mental—topped off by a global pandemic that threatened to bring us to our knees, and I wish I could say that was the end of the list.
  • We have risen to the occasion to serve our residents every time while keeping the wheels turning on the basics of local government (public safety, roads and infrastructure, parks, etc.). While the pandemic might be global, its affects are felt locally.
    • Our restaurants and small businesses have suffered tremendously.
    • Our children and schools have struggled to adapt to remote learning.
    • Our trails and parks have hosted neighbors near and far seeking a break from isolation.
    • Our infrastructure has been transformed to set up COVID testing facilities while our ability to perform basic maintenance has suffered.
  • Local government belongs to its residents, and we will work with our residents and businesses to ensure these funds are invested strategically so that our whole community will benefit long into the future.
  • We will take our time. There are several weeks before the U.S. Treasury releases official guidance on our specific allocation and rules for implementation. Beyond that, we have until 2024 to spend these dollars.
  • We will revisit our [master plan/asset management plan/etc.] which will serve as a guideline, but we will also take time to reengage the entire community on our priorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much money is your community receiving?

There are various lists of anticipated ARP dollars by community, but these lists have inaccuracies and are incomplete. We’re waiting for more accurate numbers, as well as additional direction and information from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It’s worth nothing that we can take our time in determining the best uses of this one-time funding because the ARP law gives us until the end of 2024 to use this community investment.

How will you spend this money?

The short answer is “carefully and strategically.” Local governments have been under funded for decades to the tune of $9 billion since the year 2000. We have crumbling infrastructure needs, public safety needs, human service needs, and our downtowns and parks need improvement and maintenance.

This is an extremely large sum of money. How can the public be assured that it will be spend responsibly and not wasted?

This isn’t [insert community’s] money, this is the public’s money. We are going to take our time to engage the community to ensure the that it goes to where their priorities are. The goal is to ensure these funds are used strategically so that every corner of our community makes a full recovery.

Are there any guidelines on how American Rescue Act funds can be spent?

The Department of Treasury will be issuing guidance detailing its interpretation and implementation of eligible uses, but the statutory language specifically authorizes the following uses of these funds:

  • To respond to the pandemic or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;
  • For premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work (as determined by each recipient government) during the pandemic, providing up to $13 per hour above regular wages;
  • For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the pandemic (relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency);
  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure

Are there things that the American Rescue Act funds CANNOT be used toward?

Yes, the Act prohibits states from offsetting, either directly or indirectly, a tax cut made since March 3, 2021; and prohibits states and local communities from depositing these dollars into a pension fund.

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