American Rescue Plan Funding to Support Long-Term Needed Changes for Tulsa County

In May, the county received the first of two American Rescue Plan (ARP) payments in the amount of $63 million. The second payment will be received in May of 2022. The county has until December 2026 to spend all of the ARP funds received.
With the pandemic now in its second year and after spending over $100 million of CARES funding in 2020, it’s important to understand the differences between what the CARES funds were targeted to accomplish and how the purposes of the ARP funds are different.
In the early months of 2020 the entire country was in a public health emergency with the rapid spread of COVID 19 and no vaccine in the foreseeable future. For this reason, it was clear from the Department of Treasury that the county was to use the CARES funds to protect the citizens and suppress the spread of COVID 19. It was also a priority to help small businesses, non-profits, and renters from the economic impact that was growing more serious as unemployment had jumped from 3% in March to 15% in April.
By December, Tulsa County has funded 1,012 small business forgivable loans totaling over $45 million, saving over 10,000 jobs. We had also approved 129 non-profit applications for assistance totaling over $12 million. In addition, we funded over $24 million to support our public health, public safety, courts, food insecurity, childcare, election board, emergency management, and the cities in the county.
Since the introduction of the vaccine, the President signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) in March. One of the biggest difference between the CARES funding which went directly to states, counties, and cities, the ARP funding has been distributed across dozens of federal agencies in addition to states, counties, and cities.
The funding provided to these federal agencies is to target specific businesses, industries, and non-profits in the community. Rather than look to the county for aid, these groups are encouraged to make application directly with the federal agency. For example, the Small Business Administration has the Shuttered Venue program for places of entertainment and the Restaurant Revitalization program for restaurants and bars to find financial help. The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities can provide assistance to museums and libraries. The Federal Aviation Administration provides assistance to airport concessions and airport operations.
As the vaccine and the steps taken with the CARES funding have addressed the suppression and protection from the virus, the focus of ARP is to restore, recover, and rebuild the communities. As we continue to return to life as we knew it before the pandemic, there are still areas of the county and certain populations that have not recovered as well as others. For this reason, the ARP funds are to be targeted to those who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Generally this would be in those areas of the county that have a high level of poverty.
There are five key areas where the ARP funding is to be directed: (1) support public and behavioral health response; (2) address negative economic impacts to small businesses, non-profits, and households; (3) replacing lost public revenue; (4) water, sewer, and storm water infrastructure to improve public health; and (5) broadband infrastructure improvements to support working remotely, distance learning, and telemedicine.
The ARP funding is to support long term changes in the county. More than just responding to the current public health emergency, ARP is to help the county prepare for the challenges in the future and to make changes that have been needed for some time.