Welcome back to the Local Progress Federal Advocacy Roundup! This month, we want to emphasize the urgent need for local governments to leverage their ARPA allocation dollars before the deadline at the end of 2024.
When the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in 2021, local governments were provided with a once-in-a-generation opportunity: billions of dollars were allocated directly to local governments with very few restrictions for how they could spend it.
But two years after ARPA’s passage, many local governments have not taken full advantage of this opportunity. The U.S. Treasury Department’s most recent data shows that cities and counties with populations over 250,000 have spent less than 1/3rd of their ARPA allocations. The data shows a “tale of two cities” when it comes to obligating funds: a relatively small number have made all their ARPA spending decisions, while almost 60% of these cities and counties have obligated less than half their allocation, and 56% have spent less than 25% of their allocation. Many local governments are treating ARPA funds as “de facto rainy-day funds.” While local governments have until December 31, 2026, to spend ARPA dollars, they have to obligate the money—designate it for specific uses—by December 31, 2024.
As budget season is underway, the time to obligate ARPA funds is now. If you are unsure of where your jurisdiction stands when it comes to ARPA spending, please reach out. We can help you engage with your communities, local government staff (i.e., city managers, finance directors), and fellow elected officials.
As a reminder, ARPA dollars can be used for a wide range of local government purposes: hiring and retaining public-sector employees; creating community violence prevention programs; providing direct assistance to low-income families; and building affordable housing and permanent supportive housing; developing homelessness and emergency housing programs, and more
To think through how your locality can leverage ARPA dollars, please view our ARPA resources here and reach out to LiJia Gong, our Policy and Legal Director, at email@example.com.
The Uniform Guidance is a set of federal regulations that dictate how states and localities can spend federal money, such as funds from the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act. Since the 1980s, these regulations have prevented states and cities from attaching labor and equity standards to federally-funded procurements, including local hire, targeted hire and project labor agreement requirements. For decades, states and cities have been asking the federal government to revise these regulations, and the Biden Administration has taken the first steps in making these critical updates. Led by Jobs to Move America, the Local Opportunities Coalition (of which Local Progress is a part) has been pushing to update these regulations to ensure these historic federal investments can address urgent community priorities.
A few weeks ago, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—the agency that oversees federal grant regulations—made public their intent to update the Uniform Guidance by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) on how the Uniform Guidance can be updated or revised to give state and local recipients of federal funds more tools to create good jobs and promote greater racial and gender equity in their hiring processes. The Local Opportunities Coalition and supporting partners submitted a comment in response to the RFI.
After the OMB reviews comments from the RFI, they will release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with proposed updates to the Uniform Guidance. This will be a key opportunity for local elected leaders from across the country and show their support for updating these regulations in a way that gives localities and states the flexibility they need to fully maximize the benefits of federal investments in our communities.
Over the last month, a series of federal court cases have placed access to abortion medication in doubt— though the Supreme Court has temporarily paused the immediate negative ramifications of lower court cases. On April 7th, a Texas federal district court judge invalidated the FDA’s approval of mifepristone in a case brought forth by right-wing litigators. The decision has been widely panned by both advocates and business leaders—both for its outcome and for the apparent absence of scientific and legal reasoning. Mifepristone has been FDA approved since 2000 and is scientifically proven to be safe. The Biden administration immediately appealed the Texas decision to the Fifth Circuit, where an appellate panel issued a confusing decision that left mifepristone still on the market but no longer approved for use after 7 weeks of pregnancy nor distribution by mail. Notably, as the same time as these developments were unfolding in Texas, another federal district judge in Washington released orders that directly conflict with these decisions. The Biden administration then requested the Supreme Court to provide emergency relief from the negative appellate decision in order to resolve this uncertainty as soon as possible in a way that doesn’t continue the erosion of reproductive rights. The Supreme Court granted that relief and placed a hold, effective till Friday, April 21st evening, on the lower court ruling that restricted access.
📰 ProPublica Reports Detail Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Corruption
Investigative journalists at ProPublica reported on evidence of corruption by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In a bombshell set of reports, journalists exposed how real estate billionaire Harlan Crow provided the Thomases with all-expenses-paid, lavish vacations to international destinations, bestowed upon them various gifts, donated to their causes and institutions, and–most importantly—bought property directly from them. Notably, Crow only began providing Thomas with these gifts after he became a Supreme Court Justice. Because Supreme Court Justices are a largely self-regulating body when it comes to ethics, there is no official rule that bars judges from taking these types of trips and vacations. Nonetheless, federal judges are supposed to disclose gifts exceeding $415— a value well exceeded by the vacations, gifts, and property sales involved. Ethics experts believe that Clarence Thomas violated this law—and at the very least, violated long-standing norms for federal judges. Despite the mounting evidence of corruption, it is unclear if Thomas will face any repercussions or investigations. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for his impeachment, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has said he would call on the policymaking body for the federal courts to refer Justice Thomas to the attorney general for potential violations of government ethics law.
📰 Internal Revenue Service Announces Plan to Spend $80 Billion from the Inflation Reduction Act: Passed in the fall of 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act directed $80 billion to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), representing the largest infusion into the IRS in its history. The IRS recently announced how they plan on spending this money. The IRS will increase its workforce from 80,000 to 110,000 employees over ten years. This injection was direly needed: the IRS’s current workforce is 20% smaller than it was in 2010 despite population growth and an increasingly complex tax system. Additionally, they will prioritize enforcement of high-income and high-wealth individuals, complex partnerships, and large corporations that are not paying their fair share of taxes. This reflects how businesses and high-earners are significantly less tax-compliant than workers, 99% of whom comply with tax requirements; business owners comprise the largest portion of the “tax gap,” the difference between what the IRS is owed and what it collects.
📰 Biden Administration Announces End to Bar on Affordable Health Coverage for Immigrant Youth: After creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, the Obama Administration specifically made DACA recipients ineligible for Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage and state-level coverage. With the Department of Health and Human Services’s action, potentially 600,000 Dreamers will now be allowed to sign up for health insurance through Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.
📰 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Likely to Announce Plan for Electric Vehicles to Constitute Two-Thirds of All Car Sales in the U.S. by 2032: The EPA proposed a rule that would ensure that two-thirds of all new passenger car sales are all-electric by 2032. While it’s an ambitious goal given that electric vehicles currently only make up less than 6% of all car sales, the rule will help meet the scale of the environmental crisis. While the EPA cannot directly mandate that car companies sell a certain number of electric vehicles, they can regulate how much pollution can be emitted in total by the cars that a company sells; in effect, the only way for automakers to comply with this regulation will be to rapidly increase their production of electric vehicles or risk heavy fines. The proposed rule was only just announced; it must still go through a lengthy notice-and-comment period before it can officially be enacted. Union leaders at United Auto Workers voiced concerns that this rule could “force workers to decide between good jobs and green jobs” since “many new electric vehicle plants and battery factories are being built in southern states that are politically hostile to unionized labor and where wages are relatively low.”
📰 Senator Bernie Sanders Invites Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to testify in front of Congress:
Close to 300 out of 9,000 total Starbucks locations have unionized, but the path to unionization has not been easy. Senator Bernie Sanders, now the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, invited former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to testify in front of the Senate, a move intended to spotlight Starbucks’ union-busting behavior. Notably, Schultz resigned from his position as Starbucks CEO the week before his congressional testimony. During the testimony, Senators pressed Shultz regarding Starbucks’ ongoing proceedings with the National Labor Relations Board, where one judge found the company had committed “hundreds of unfair labor practices,” and regarding Starbucks’s delay in negotiating a contract with its unionized workers.
📰 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Announced The Selection Of Seventeen Technical Assistance Centers To Support Environmental Justice Communities: The EPA provided $177 million in funding to seventeen technical assistance centers. Their work will specifically focus on providing overburdened, underserved, and rural communities with the support and technical assistance they need to make transformative investments in their community and to leverage federal environmental justice funds. This program aligns with the Biden administration’s goal to ensure that 40% of the benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities.
Good Jobs, Great Cities Academy– A Partnership between the Department of Labor and National League of Cities. APPLY BY APRIL 28th:
The Department of Labor is partnering with the National League of Cities to help 12 cities build career pathways for historically underserved communities into the good jobs that will be created through the Biden-Harris administration’s investments in Infrastructure, Clean Energy and Advance Manufacturing. The Good Jobs, Great Cities Academy will engage 12 cities throughout 2023 and 2024 to accelerate city efforts to design, develop, and launch a workforce initiative over the course of the Academy to build pathways into good jobs created by federal investments (BIL/CHIPS/IRA), especially for local residents from historically underserved and underrepresented communities, addressing key gaps and/or shortcomings in their education and workforce ecosystem. Example initiatives might include launching a pre-apprenticeship program, expanding Registered Apprenticeship into new sectors, designing a comprehensive youth strategy for a city, or developing a regional sector partnership for a growing industry. The initiative can be new or can scale or provide an innovative approach to an existing promising practice. Interested cities must apply by April 28.