On Friday October 14, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds email and phone help center assistance to local governments will be dramatically scaled back beginning today, Monday, October 17, 2022.
We have been working with the National League of Cities (NLC) and have been tracking the recent possibility of this unfortunate outcome after the Department of Treasury’s Deputy Secretary sent a warning to all State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund (SLFRF) grantees in September. That message informed grantees that funding for call center support – which provides an entry point for recipients to bring their questions or issues, including around payments and reporting – will be shut down. Additionally, that email noted that ongoing and future email support would be sharply curtailed. While this might seem like a quick order of events, Treasury has been aware of the funding shortfall for months and has been trying to receive authority from Congress to reallocate administrative funds from other relief-era programs to staff the help centers.
The specific impact on cities and villages is unclear at this moment, but in the short-term, the ability to get questions answered will certainly be greatly reduced. Further, the help center’s lack of ability to respond to questions will likely hurt our small local governments the hardest, as these municipalities already have the fewest amount of resources to implement SLFRF programs.
To try and ease any consequential burden, the Department of Treasury has provided access to frequently asked questions from grantees by clicking on the Self-Service Resources button at the top of the SLFRF page. Looking forward, almost all non-entitlement units of local government (NEUs) do not have to file their next annual report until April 2023. This provides some time for there to be an adequate solution implemented to address the lack of support from the Department of Treasury for SLFRF grantees, since the filing deadline is when we saw many of the problems and questions arise.
The potential strain on cities and villages that results from ending the call and email centers, is an issue that MML and NLC both recognize as significant and are committed to elevating this issue with Congress, in hopes to achieve a legislative fix as soon as possible.
MML stands ready to support our cities and villages as they seek guidance during this time. Our ServeMICIty program is specifically designed to answer your questions and help provide the assistance you need. In the absence of robust federal assistance, we encourage you to utilize this service and make the most of your ARP funding. For more information about ServeMICity, please click here.
John LaMacchia is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0303.