With federal dollars filtering down through CARES, ARPA and a future infrastructure bill, this is an ideal opportunity for cities and counties to engage residents and other community stakeholders in helping to direct new funds in an equitable manner.
As most local officials know, the American Rescue Plan Act was adopted with guidelines encouraging local governments to engage the public and work toward equitable outcomes in spending these dollars. The National League of Cities and Polco recently published an article with helpful suggestions along these lines.
The All-America City of Roanoke, VA, was an early adopter of civic engagement to designate best uses of federal dollars in its initial COVID response and recovery work, forming a citywide committee to gather input and make recommendations.
More recently, the Colorado Department of Education worked with the Keystone Policy Center to gather student input on how to spend $132 million in federal education dollars. Students have suggested everything from continued free breakfasts and lunches to teacher training on technology, help for students on exploring college and careers and internet upgrades.
A few resources for civic engagement around budgeting and spending include our All-America Conversations Toolkit, the budgeting software provided by Balancing Act and the wide variety of organizations working in civic engagement, many of which are listed on our website.