On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Among many things, like individual stimulus checks, child tax credits and funds to the NEA, this landmark legislation allocated transformative amounts of recovery funds to state and local governments nationwide.

From the US Treasury: The American Rescue Plan will deliver $350 billion for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs. 

Colorado will receive approximately $5.7 billion, with $3.8 billion. going to the State of Colorado for the Governor and Legislature to distribute. The remaining $1.9 billion will be allocated to local municipalities and counties statewide. This unprecedented infusion of funding is extremely flexible with fewer restrictions than traditional government block grants.

The arts ARE eligible! You just need to make the case.

From the US Treasury [emphasis added]: Recipients may use Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to:

  • Support public health expenditures, by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and certain public health and safety staff;
  • Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector;
  • Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic;
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have borne and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and,
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand access to broadband internet.

Where do the arts fit in?

There are so many ways the arts can be applied to these eligible uses of funds, directly and indirectly.

  • The US Treasury specifies that a priority for economic recovery includes supporting small businesses and speeding the recovery of the tourism, travel, and hospitality sectors. The arts and creative industries are absolutely “impacted industries” and can also be part of tourism and hospitality strategies.
  • The arts can be a component in your communities’ public health strategy. Check out this PSA video that was self-produced by Denver metro artists to encourage vaccinations. Artists have been hired to create educational materials and public health signage. The arts can also play a role in behavioral health strategies. Children’s Hospital Colorado has declared a “State of Emergency” in youth mental health.
  • The guidance also prioritizes serving the hardest-hit communities and families, which includes addressing educational disparities through new or expanded early learning services, providing additional resources to high-poverty school districts, and offering educational services like tutoring or afterschool programs as well as services to address social, emotional, and mental health needs. It’s hard to think of a better way to incorporate the arts! This is an exciting opportunity to make investments in arts education in schools and after-school programming to serve under-resourced communities.
  • Consider ways that infrastructure projects can integrate the arts and provide jobs for creatives. Is this an opportunity to start, refresh or expand your city’s “percent for public art” program? Can contracts with artists be part of these infrastructure investments, or a way to celebrate a community achievement?

How much money will your municipality or county receive?

From the US TreasuryLocal governments will receive funds in two tranches, with 50% provided beginning in May 2021 and the balance delivered approximately 12 months later.

Of the approximately $2 billion for Colorado local governments in ARPA, $1.1 billion is for counties; $551 million is for metropolitan cities, and $265 million is for local governments with 50,000 or fewer people (also called non-entitlement units). Find your county here. Find your metro area here. The NEUs are only presented in aggregate by state.

Start the conversation now with you local government

Now is the time to create your proposals and talk to your City/Town Councils and County Commissioners. Get ready!

  • Connect with your local arts, culture and creative constituents and learn what their priorities and opportunities are. Be as inclusive and equitable as possible in that outreach. Now is the time to dream big together!
  • Align with your local lawmakers and decision-makers and their timelines and processes.
  • Think about partners and delivery channels. The guidance is very flexible about loan, grants, in-kind support and new programs.
  • If your local lawmakers have already made plans/decisions, figure out how/if the arts can be part of those plans. Communicate to your constituents on how they factor in, even if “art” isn’t explicitly mentioned.

Need more help? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Check out this crowd-sourced tracker of state and local ARPA proposals for the arts. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Support the economic losses by fabricators with 1 to 10 employees by purchasing the fabrication of artist designed street furnishings and building elements. (Boynton Beach, FL)
  • The City of Bloomington will contract with Healthcare Reparations to provide community-involved, trauma-informed art approaches to address the role of emergency responses in exacerbating disparities. Projects include working with local BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists to embed art and interactive art activities into vaccination spaces/sites, and a community art project. (Bloomington, MN)
  • Historic Downtown Commercial Corridor Stabilization & Business Recovery Programs (2021-2026). Program areas include: Arts, Culture & Promotional Events, Retail & Food Pop-Up Program, Clean & Safe Downtown, Commercial Space & Facade Improvements, Relief & Recovery Fund, Business Preservation & Attraction. (Richmond, CA)
  • Arts Recovery Grants to “help address financial hardships, jump start programing, ensure events and facilities are safe for the public, and guarantee access to resources with public Wi-Fi and enhanced educational content.” (Raleigh, NC)
  • Funds to “assist creatives with streaming content from local arts and cultural organizations, develop a local artist registry to foster more opportunities for Austin’s creatives, continued dedicated relief and recovery funding for Live Music Venues, provide additional financial assistance to individuals, households, employees, businesses, and non-profit organizations. (Austin, TX)

Here are some additional resources to get you started, many of which informed this article. Looking for more or something else? Need help? Reach out to us at CBCA!