Lisa Reijula: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee for a discussion today on the community engagement strategies that states, cities and counties used when making decisions on how to allocate their pandemic relief funds. I'm Lisa Reijula. I'm the Associate Director for Outreach and Engagement at the PRAC and your moderator today. The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee was created by Congress in March 2020 to provide independent oversight of what is now more than $5 trillion in pandemic relief spending. And we count some 21 federal Inspectors General as our members. Our mission is to protect pandemic relief funds from fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, and to promote transparency to let the public and policymakers know where the money went and whether it reached those it was intended to help. Our website, pandemicoversight.gov, is a treasure trove of data to help people understand how their tax dollars were used to respond to the pandemic.
It's where citizen watchdogs like yourselves can look through the data and report any potential red flags to our hotline. Pandemicoversight.gov is also the only place to find lessons learned gathered from more than 400 pandemic oversight reports that have been issued by federal Inspectors General, and we have also more than 200 reports from state and local auditors. To oversee this level of spending close collaboration with state and local officials is essential for us. And today, as part of that work, we are really excited to co-host this event with the National League of Cities. State and local governments received unprecedented levels of federal funding through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan. And today we're going to talk about the $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund or SLFRF or SLFRF, whatever you prefer, that provided direct flexible funding to states, counties, cities, territories, and tribes.
We are thrilled to welcome five expert panelists to this virtual roundtable to talk about how their cities and counties engaged their communities when allocating this funding. We're going to hear why local governments engaged the public in this process, how they did it, what are the tools that they use, and what have the outcomes been thus far. I'm also happy to share today that the PRAC, we've updated our publicly available SLFRF expenditure data on pandemicoversight.gov, and you'll get a brief tour of that interactive dashboard from Andrea Lynn, a data and policy analyst with the PRAC team. Finally, I encourage any state and local offices or media that have questions about that data to please reach out to us directly. We're always happy to walk you through it. Thank you to all of you for tuning in today. Please put questions as we go in the Q&A feature. We'll get to as many as we can. And I'd like to turn to our panelists now and have each of you briefly introduce yourselves, tell us about your role and how it relates to today's discussion. And Grace, can I ask you to kick us off?
Grace Kyung: Yes. Hi everyone. My name is Grace Kyung. I'm with the City of St. Louis Mayor's office under Mayor Tishaura Jones. And my role here in the office is Senior Strategic Initiative Manager. So I take on some of our most priority initiative here in the office, which includes monitoring ARPA, implementation, how we as the city are utilizing those funds, how our departments are allocating that fund out to the general public so that those who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 see the COVID release dollars reach their communities directly. So thank you for having me.
Lisa Reijula: Great. Thank you, Grace. Shamiah, can I ask you to go next?
Shamiah Kerney: Sure. Good afternoon everyone. My name is Shamiah Kerney. I am the Chief Recovery Officer for the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs in Baltimore City, led by Mayor Brandon Scott. The Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs was established in July of 2021 with the sole purpose of implementing and monitoring ARPA funds. So we are a decentralized agency that deals with all of our city government agencies and any sub-recipients ensuring that funds are expended appropriately and also monitoring and reporting to the US Treasury.
Lisa Reijula: Fantastic. Thank you. Amanda, how about you?
Amanda Kass: Hi, thanks so much for having me. So I'm Amanda Kass. I'm an Assistant Professor at DePaul University, and I'm a little unique from the other panelists, obviously I'm not working for a local government. So I'm currently working though on a multi-year study that's funded by the Joyce Foundation in partnership with a collaborator at Marquette University. And we're looking at how governments are using their fiscal recovery fund aid pretty specifically for community violence intervention programs. And these are programs that aim at reducing violence and gun violence in particular. I think I'll be able to put a link to our research project site in the Q&A. And so while our research is kind of focused on looking at community violence intervention spending in a small number of cities, we're also using data from the Treasury Department to look at aggregate spending patterns so we can compare investment in community balance intervention programs to kind of other categories of spending and get a sense of how governments are using their SLRF money.
Lisa Reijula: Fantastic, thank you. Annette, can I go to you next?
Annette Guzman: Absolutely. And hello everyone. My name is Annette Guzman. I'm the budget director for Cook County Government in Illinois, and I am part of the team of people at Cook County who's been working over the past year and a half to determine how the funding received under the SLRF program would be used in Cook County. And very similar to Shamiah, we instituted a project management office within the Bureau of Finance of which the budget office is a part of and we are centrally managing all of the ARPA funding as well as some of the other funding that we've received, such as the CARES Act and FEMA grant and so forth. And that's just to make sure that not only are we complying with the mandates set out for each of those funding sources, but also so that we can understand the impact of those funds more centrally and then use that to help guide decisions in the future of how we use our own funding to help our communities.
Lisa Reijula: Great. Welcome. And Joshua, over to you.
Joshua Pine: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Lisa. And it's such a pleasure to be here on this panel and especially excited that the National League of Cities could co-host this event with you all. My name is Joshua Pine. I work as the Program Manager for City Innovation and Data for the National League of Cities. We've been in a great position to be able to follow a lot of the great work that cities have been doing in response to the pandemic over the past two and a half years. We've stood up several tools and dashboards that I'll share the links in the chat throughout this panel, but really excited for the research that we've been able to do to follow all the work the cities have been doing as well as putting out resources and recommendations on how cities can best leverage these funds to support their communities during this pandemic response period. So very excited to be on this panel.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks Joshua. And a big thank you to the National League of Cities for co-hosting with us today. We were also going to be joined by John Decker, who's the budget and evaluation director of the City of Greensboro in North Carolina. He unfortunately wasn't able to join us today, so we'll hope to get him on a future webinar or share his resources with the group. Next, if I could ask Andrea Lynn, my colleague at the PRAC, she's going to give a quick overview of some of our efforts to promote transparency into SLFRF funding and show you the data that you can use on pandemicoversight.gov. Andrea, over to you?
Andrea Lynn: Hi everyone. So first I'm going to... Let me make sure I can actually share my screen. Hopefully you can all... Has everyone seen the PRAC website? I hope so. So just in case you have, and hopefully everyone's very familiar with our site, but just in case, this is our homepage. Here we sort of highlight just some of the high level features and stories that we really want to bring people's attention to on the site as well as sort of upcoming events or new stories that we've recently published and times that the PRAC has been in the news recently. And then lower on the site we have sort of what we lovingly refer to as the Donut, which shows high level how the $5 trillion of pandemic funding has been spent. And then we also this tracker or ticker on the side that shows sort of how much it's been spent obligated and the total amount of pandemic funding.
Such a very quick overview, but what I really want to walk through is our SLFRF dashboard. So here on the site we update the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund dashboard as often as data is made available. Most of those sort of bigger government sizes of SLFRF who receive SLFRF report quarterly, so that's states and territories that have more than 250,000 residents and those that received more than 10 million. And then we also have data from smaller governments that report annually. And this is our dashboard and here we see just sort of the high level overview of how much has been obligated nationwide, how much has been spent. There's certain projects where recipients have to report how many households have been served, so we highlight that as well, and then the number of projects funded. So just to show you an example of how we would use this dashboard. For example, if I wanted to see how many infrastructure projects were funded in the District of Columbia, I would just type that in.
What I really like is these charts that show the specific categories that the funding projects fall into. So there's this high level spending groups and then within those spending groups, smaller spending categories. So I'm already filtered by DC and then I can click into infrastructure. I see that there's two projects that are a total of almost $2 million and when I click that, it filters down and I can see what those specific projects are, which I think is just really interesting and some of the medias part of this data is looking at this project descriptions.
I really encourage you to look at your community and see what projects have been funded in your community. This one says, "Increasing funding available for replacing lead water service lines." And some can get really specific into a specific number of vehicles purchased or computers purchased, so it's a really interesting way to dig into how this public money is being spent. So that's just sort of a quick overview of our dashboard. As you can see, this data is updated as of June 30th and it's for 27,000 governments and almost 50,000 projects. This data will be updated on a quarterly basis whenever Treasury puts out an update, and I will pass it back to you, Lisa, to hear from our panelists.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Andrea. And the PRAC, we've been for only two and a half years. Our website has been around that time, so we really value your feedback. There's a button throughout the site when you're looking at the data to ask us questions or send us feedback and we really encourage you to do that so we can keep iterating on this and making it the best resource for the public that it can be. So with that, let's dive in. I wanted to start with our first question, talking about policy issues. What were some of the most prioritized policy priorities or policy issues that affected how local governments allocated SLFRF? Amanda, if I could start with you on this one because you might have a national view or a view across localities. And then turn to each of our panelists that want to jump in on this one with a view locally what their policy priorities were.
Amanda Kass: Yeah, thanks. So first I want to say that this is somewhat of actually tricky question to answer in part because of the unprecedented nature of the SLFRF program itself. So this is the first program in my lifetime that's provided this amount of highly flexible federal aid to nearly all general purpose local governments in the United States. Because of this flexibility in the design of the program, it's kind of hard to summarize spending trends in a really meaningful way among tens of thousands of governments. That being said though, the Biden Administration strongly encouraged governments to use their aid in really targeted ways to prioritize disadvantaged communities and to address long-standing inequities. One of the important aspects of the program and its design is that the money isn't supposed to just be used for immediate needs, but to be used right in these really strategic ways to address preexisting needs and inequities that exacerbated the pandemic and made its effects felt so unevenly.
Again, this is built into the DNA of the program. So I think we're seeing governments, and I think some of the panels can speak to this, we're seeing them develop spending frameworks that are really built around equity issues. And then looking at the spending data, that's again, as of the end of June 2022. There's a kind of few big trends I wanted to highlight. So the first is that deciding on how to spend the money is still an ongoing process. So states in large cities and counties that are in the reporting tiers one and two, they've been allocated a combined $297 billion in SLFRF aid. As of the most recent data available, again as of the end of June, they have spending plans for about 58% of that 297 billion. Governments have spent a kind of even smaller amount of that. So again, as at the end of June, those governments have spent nearly 87 billion of that aid, which is about 30% of the total allocation.
There's kind of many reasons behind those numbers. If there's questions, happy to talk about it. But that's just to say, again, spending is an ongoing, deciding how to use the money is ongoing. A second trend is that of the money that's been spent thus far, I think the bulk of it has gone to things that are what I would call kind of administrative easy or at least burdensome. Again, it's still early in the program and I think it's kind of unsurprising that we've seen that. So for states in those tier one and two cities, of that 87 billion that they had spent, 70% went to just two things, revenue replacement and for state governments replenishing unemployment insurance trust funds. And then behind those two big categories, broadband projects is another prominent area and governments are planning to spend nearly 7.5 billion on that category.
Then for the tier five local governments, those are those smaller cities and counties. Of the 51 billion that they reported having spent by the end of April, 90% of that was for revenue replacement. Of course though, because of the fungibility of money and the nature of general fund budgets, the recovery aid that's going to revenue replacement, it may be kind of going to more unique and interesting programs, but those stories aren't visible or easily captured in the treasury data. And so that's why I say it's kind of hard to look at the data and pull out these really big and interesting trends. The third trend I think is worth noting is the process governments are using to determine how they're using their recovery aid. Here I think there's a really strong connection to kind of seeing trends and unique policy issues. So many governments have been doing community engagement to really get residents involved in their spending decisions and to engage what is the public see as the most pressing needs.
There's many different kind of approaches to how you engage residents and other panelists can dive into that. I think that there's really exciting policy experimentation occurring, so a handful of communities are using a portion of the recovery funds to pilot universal basic income programs. I know Cook County is one of them. We know that the recovery money is a one-time revenue resource, but I think we may see this money being used to kind of test out programs like universal basic income with a long-term goal of making these programs permanent. Cities are also using the money to test out and expand approaches to gun violence that get at the root causes. This is something that Baltimore is doing. So to help facilitate that work, the Biden Administration back in June 2021, it helped to convene a coalition for 15 different jurisdictions. We're going to use some of the recovery money for community violence intervention programs and with a goal of forming that coalition that there would be knowledge sharing between those different places.
So again, I think one interesting trend is that we're seeing the fiscal recovery fund money being used as a seed for long-term policy change. The very last thing I wanted to say is that the unique design of the program means that governments really have the power to use aid for their unique communities. And of course budget decisions, they're not just technocratic, they're also political. And because of this, I think that the ultimate story, when we look 10 years from now at how the fiscal recovery aid was used and what's prioritized, we won't be able to kind of say just one aggregate story, but we really need to talk about many different stories that are tied to government's kind of unique socioeconomic conditions.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Amanda. A lot of threads to pull on there and a lot of great insight into the ongoing process, the flexibility of the funds, the high level categories, making it difficult to hear about individual stories and I think underscoring why it's so important and why we really appreciate you all joining us today so that we can get some of that insight. I wonder, since you mentioned the UBI pilot in Cook County and as well as some of the projects to address gun violence in Baltimore, I wonder if Annette and Shamiah you could tell us a little bit about those projects or about what were some of the policy issues that affected the allocation of your funding or how you approached it?
Annette Guzman: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for mentioning that. We're really excited about the Guaranteed Income Pilot and we actually just call it a Guaranteed Income Program because we do have plans on making it a permanent piece of the work that Cook County will do going forward, even beyond the funding received through the ARPA program. And we did over 30,000 surveys. We had so many town hall meetings, we pulled our department heads and our bureau chiefs and our separately electees because they're out in the community doing this work. And we wanted to get as many voices as possible. We heard from our board of commissioners, our legislators about what was important and what they're hearing and we took all of that information to understand how should we be using this funding. I do want to make a point that community outreach is not something new to local jurisdictions and local governments as a way to understand how to provide services to the community in which we are responsible.
I think that this represented an unprecedented opportunity for us to take it to a completely different level because we, as Amanda said, haven't had funding of this nature in a really long time. We learned a lot of lessons through the implementation of the CARES Act that we brought into how we were going to engage with our community to understand how to use this funding. CARES Act was a lot more limited; this was a lot more open. So what did we find out during that survey? During those surveys, town hall meetings, all of that stuff, we had wiki everything. The priorities that the community had by gender, women, by and large were mostly focused on healthcare; men, mostly focused on infrastructure. Those of non-binary categorization were really focused on housing. By race, black people were really focused on housing. Indigenous communities were really focused on community safety.
White, AAIPI and Hispanics were mostly focused on healthcare. And by age, I thought this was really interesting. Gen Z and millennials focused on healthcare. When you look at millennials and Gen Xers, because millennials are kind of... They're kind of spread across a number of generations, they were focused on healthcare and childcare because Gen Xers now have Kids. Boomers were really focused on infrastructure and I think it makes sense the results of all of our community engagement because we had just come through a pandemic and we're still sort of in the pandemic. So healthcare was really top of mind when it comes to not only just access to healthcare, but mental healthcare. We really, really heard from our community that people were suffering in a way that was really meaningful. And then we also knew that we really wanted to focus on what Amanda said, which is how do we really start to redress the kind of historical inequities that we were seeing in our communities.
And so really thinking about those transformative programs that were really going to help people recover not only from the pandemic but really redress those wrongs, so things like the Guaranteed Income Program. We have a medical debt relief program, which if you think about what are some of the things that keep people in kind of a cycle of poverty, medical debt is one of those things. So we really were looking at how do we really shake things up. One of the things that we made a conscious decision in, because Amanda is right, when you tab everything under your revenue loss category, you report less data. It's a lot easier to report back to the treasury because you've just categorized it as revenue laws. We actually didn't do that. We actually categorized most of our programs so that we could get really meaningful data to show why these programs work and to help support ongoing and further investment in these areas. Because if you can prove that it works, then you have so much more justification to keep it going.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks Annette. Well, you're speaking our language in terms of doing more than less data collection so that we can have a better sense of impact and better sense of what's working effectively. Shamiah, can I go over to you of you from Baltimore?
Shamiah Kerney: Sure. I do want to pick up on that thread just a bit about data collection and around couching some of the programs or some of the spending under provision of government services. I do want to caution those that are on the webinar today that if you are looking at spend rate across cities, it's not going to be comparable. We do have a lot of cities that are providing information based on their provision of government services. And so there are other cities that have really taken some of the... on this to start programs and services. And so that spending is going to look a lot less right now than it will if you compare to other cities that are showing their revenue loss or couching information under provision of government services. So if there's one thing that I want to advocate for every city that is represented here is that it is not a fair comparison to try to compare spend rate across jurisdictions based on some of those caveats.
But I will also pick up there again that Baltimore City is doing some of the hard work with doing programs and services first, and so we also have a guaranteed income pilot program. Mayor Scott is a member of Mayors for Guaranteed Income and has been participatory in that for well over a year, working with several of the mayor's offices of the Mayor's Office of Children and Family Success, as well as our mayor's Office of Homeless Services. I'm really looking at what kind of social services are needed and what are the demographics in our city that are the most impacted. So for our pilot program, we are focused on individuals ages 18 to 24 that have children and providing them with a thousand dollars of supplemental income a month for the next two years. And what we hope is that that will inform the national dialogue around some of our benefits cliff and really hoping that some of the benefits that are provided from the government are not going to be cut off because you make a dollar more than what the deadlines are or what the criteria is.
We really want to be able to inform that conversation and really have meaningful data that demonstrates where there's need. And so for us, we're concentrated in that area. You also mentioned some of the work that we're doing around gun violence and community violence prevention, and so that is hugely important in Baltimore. The national narrative about violence in Baltimore is not good, but quite honestly it's not that much different than a lot of other major cities. We just seem to make the news more and we are very cognizant of all of the efforts that are being made in the city. I'm really looking at this as a ecosystem so we're not going to arrest our way and jail our way through some of our challenges with violence. So really looking at how can we provide information to individuals in the community to help deescalate where there might be issues of where people are arguing or there might be the potential for violence. Arming people with information on how to deescalate and step in where necessary, providing people with places to be able to talk about conflict. So we're really looking at this as a holistic approach and so we have used some of the ARPA money for that purpose and to support the mayor's Community Violence Intervention Plan.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you. And Grace, anything that you want to weigh in from St. Louis?
Grace Kyung: Yeah, of course. I will try to touch on things that folks haven't talked about as much yet, but I do want to give kudos to our city as well. We recently, as of this week, passed legislation through our board of alderman or our elected officials for also pilot testing, a guaranteed basic income program here in the city of St. Louis. That bill is headed to the mayor's desk for her signature. Similar to the city of Baltimore, Mayor Jones is also part of the Mayor's for Guaranteed Income and has been advocating for it prior to being in office as mayor and now as mayor. So we're excited about our GBI program. It's actually building off of the Direct Cash Assistance Program. So one of the first things that Mayor Jones did once we received the SLFRF funds is that we created what we call the Stimulus Advisory Board.
This was community members, researchers, other folks that may give us a better insight on how COVID-19 was impacting the city, and then thinking about what we call the Direct Release Aid Package. This was 122 million of our SLFRF funds that went into directly addressing economic issues that are impacting a household like the Direct Cash Assistance Program. We're starting to see some of the valuation results really come together that, for example, 80% of the participants were Black African American that were accepted into DCA for short for Direct Cash Assistance. But we also not only invested in things like community violence intervention efforts, but behavioral health, housing, particularly those that were at risk of eviction or having housing instability issues. So looking at what 30% or EMI or less were particularly going through knowing that of course as we've seen throughout the pandemic rents have been increasing.
So how we're addressing the affordability crisis here in the city and supporting our own house neighbors because throughout the pandemic we've seen more situations where individuals are becoming unhoused through the different economic turmoils that we've seen the pandemic cause. And we've also really invested in what we've been calling our Economic Justice Action Plan here in the city. That was how we've been looking at the initial round of ARPA funding, but then we did another round of engagement this year that I'm happy to dive more into and share how we continue to do engagement throughout this process to really best understand how to utilize this funding here in the city.
Lisa Reijula: Great. Thank you, Grace. That touches on a question that hopefully we'll get to in the discussion in terms of how do you manage the different streams of federal funding that you may have received, whether it's SLFRF or if it's from the CARES Act, or if it is infrastructure funding or something like the Emergency Rental Assistance program. How do you look across the programs and decide what to fund with which funding stream and what might you need from the federal government to make that easier? Joshua, if I could turn to you, you were a co-author on a National League of Cities report on various ways that local leaders engaged with their communities to determine needs to make sure that ARPA funding aligned with priorities. Can you talk a little bit about the types of community engagement strategies that were highlighted in that report and then we'll turn to each of our local leaders to give some of the examples that they used. This can be a section where it's show and tell. Feel free to share your screen if you want to pull up a resource or something web-based for the audience.
Joshua Pine: Certainly, happy to kick us off and then I'm particularly excited to hear from other panelists as well more about what they worked on. The report that we wrote was last summer, and I think it was really exciting to see immediately after the passage of ARPA, how cities were able to mobilize engaging their communities. I think especially recognizing a lot of the challenges that local governments faced as the treasury final ruling was still being developed. I know it was tricky for a lot of local governments trying to balance the getting city residents broad community engagement and excited, but also recognizing that there were kind of requirements on how they were able to spend those funds. I think one exciting trend that we saw in particular was thinking around kind of the unique nature obviously of the pandemic and ARPA and limited modes of engaging in person with public health constraints.
I think a lot of cities leveraged lessons from the 2020 census engagement and trying to find creative ways to engage with communities. I think we saw certainly a lot of engagement more in the virtual hybrid space, whether that was virtual town halls, online surveys, as well as some more kind of sophisticated technological tools to allow residents to provide feedback on what tools to prioritize over others. As we highlighted in our report though, I think one of the things that as we've been doing research and engaging with cities, especially a lot of the smaller cities and counties that have never received federal funding before, I think making sure that in our research we're not equating high technology with high impact community engagement. I think there's certainly a lot of smaller communities that don't necessarily have a community development or community engagement staff for the local government, but certainly a lot of communities still finding creative ways to get feedback, whether it's going into the community, posting online surveys on government websites and finding other creative ways to find that feedback.
And I think especially exciting kind of as cities and counties are now spending those funds, interested in seeing how local governments continue to engage their communities during the implementation process and not just during the initial solicitation of feedback for the proposal. So that's some of the research that we conducted. I'm happy to toss the link in the chat as well for people who want to look at some more of the examples. But I'm particularly excited to hear from my other panelists in terms of the specifics of their community engagement activities.
Lisa Reijula: Great, thank you. Grace, can we ask that you start? Can you talk a little bit about your work in St. Louis, some of the community engagement strategies that you all undertook there?
Grace Kyung: Yeah, of course. And this one I should screen share? Sorry for clarification. Okay, I will screen share.
Lisa Reijula: Yes, definitely.
Grace Kyung: So I'm only going to screen share those for less than a minute here. Mainly because it's a lot of data and a lot of colors and I know if you can't play with it yourself, this is hard to read and see. As I was sharing, Mayor Jones last year did what we call the Stimulus Advisory Board, but earlier this year we did an online and paper survey and we were able to reach over 5,000 people here and that's here at the top bar. How we broke out these categories was a little different than how SLFRF has those categories. But mainly why we focus on children and youth, economic empowerment, government services, household assistance, infrastructure improvements, neighborhood transformation and public health is that we wanted to think forward thinking of how can these funds even further transform and help us in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And these were the buckets that we decided were very important to hear locally here in the community, and that could help us refine some of these categories even further. So I'll of course share the tableau links for you all could play with the data if you're interested. But this breaks out the survey categories based on the demographics that we had collected, and then if you look at this next tab of demographic breakdown, I'll just go into neighbor transformation because overall that was the category that received the most feedback. In other words, it was the most important to those that participated. But that category we were looking at how are we prioritizing between these different selections here of what is most important to an individual who is taking the survey. So I was looking at addressing vacant buildings, build and rehab housing, expanding public transit, green urban infrastructure, neighborhoods planning, traffic calming and street improvements.
As similar to Annette was sharing, based on your race, your income, gender and age, different priorities popped up of what was most important to someone. And then the final tab here goes into where we collected that data, who responded from what area. Again, I'll share that link here in the chat in a moment. But other parts that we did with this engagement process was that we also not only did the paper and in-person surveys and we... Sorry, we did in-person surveys by going to different neighborhood meetings and asking our elected officials also to help share it within their boards and locations as well, but we did a digital survey. In recognizing the limitations with the digital and paper survey, we also hosted round table discussions based on each of those categories. These, again, were different subject-matter experts, neighbor leaders, to give us more of an insight of what was important to different demographics, different communities, and then as well as within those categories.
And then we also hosted a couple town halls with Mayor Jones so that she could directly hear from folks on what was important to them, how they wanted to utilize and see the ARPA funding spent. But also being cognizant that a lot of the feedback we were getting along the way is folks felt exhausted by being overly surveyed in that I feel like this would... I'm seeing nods now and I know that folks that aren't on the panel are probably nodding along. So being mindful of what the balance is and how we do this engagement because Mayor Jones is a firm believer in that we need to engage people along the way, we can't just engage them at a one point stop, but also she doesn't want us to move forward and make any decisions with such a large investment of funding without getting more community input because that will help us better understand how to break these funding together with other federal resources, other funding that has been coming in locally and as well as from the state.
If our federal partners are listening, I think that's where we could also use some help. How do we best leverage the investments we are making here locally to leverage into different funding that is coming into our municipalities and that we could be offered some sort of assistance on navigating that so we can get the best impact on how we utilize this funding. And recognizing that we all have limited SLFRF funds that can only go so far. So we're not even funding all of the things that we wish we could be funding trying out different pilots or initiatives here in our communities. So with that, I will take a pause.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you so much Grace. Definitely want to pick up the question on how much engagement is enough engagement? When is it too much engagement to get everyone's thoughts on that one? When is it that you have to move forward with the decision and kind of balance those tensions? Annette, I wonder if we could turn to you next. You had mentioned that of course community engagement is not something new, but the pandemic was maybe a new level of funding or there were other challenges. I wonder if you could talk to us a little bit about what were some of the challenges that you all faced in thinking about community engagement in regards to COVID funding and what were some of the strategies or tactics that you took to overcome them? Oh, I think you're on mute.
Annette Guzman: Sure. And I'll share my screen as well. Okay. So I think these are all great questions. For us, part of the challenge that we had was we received so many more ideas and requests than we had funding. And to your question about when is too much engagement too much? I think on some level, all of us are guided by the fact that we have a short time window in which to actually spend this funding. There are a number of programs out there that are going to have short-term impacts, they're more about addressing an immediate need. We have longer term and transformative projects that take a long time to ramp up. And so on some level, you got to shut off the community engagement because you got to get the programs up and running and out the door. So just really quickly, just to show you a couple of things that Cook County went through, as I had mentioned before, we received over 426 proposals.
We actually just went out to the community and said, "Give us your ideas." And they sent ideas in the form of proposals. We also had a website where we had both the ability for anyone in the county to provide us feedback, but then also to provide specific information on how we should use that funding. Next, we had public meetings. We held over 15 regional meetings, public town halls, listening sessions on how best to invest that ARPA funding. We had a wiki survey that received over 22,000 votes and then we had an ideas generator, which was just differently. It was like words and people could just vote on words, and that generated over 30,000 ideas on how to prioritize the funding. And so again, we used all of these different collaborative ways to first get the ideas, but then we had to filter through them.
We had to figure out of all of this information, how do we actually arrive at how we're going to fund? And so we had all of these evaluation criteria that we were going to use, including how did these initiatives or ideas advance racial equity in our community and really addressed some of those long standing inequities within our community. And they kind of all went through the same review amongst a large, and when I say large, I mean a very large what we call policy team that really were divided into various categories of kind of vantage point in view. So again, 426 proposals, if you were going to do all of them, it was about $403 billion. Cook County only received $1 billion, and so we filtered them into our policy roadmap, which is six policy priorities that the county really focuses its work and its funding in. Out of that work that the policy team did, 67 proposals out of the 426 were advanced for funding and they were within those six policy categories.
So I won't go through everything, but I'll just say that out of those proposals, we really group them into what we call near term initiatives that things that can get done really quickly and address immediate needs, longer term programs that were going to need time to stand up and had more lasting impact and then transformative initiatives were things that were really going to the heart of systemic change within our communities. Filtered through that group decisions were made. And like I said earlier, we decided that we really wanted the bulk of the money that we received to go out into the community so we had a 70%, 30% ratio of the funding for the first year. It took us about a year and a half to go through that community engagement process, and in 2022 we made our first allocations in these various categories of our policy priorities. Really, really focused on things that would help our communities thrive.
So within Vital Communities, protect our communities through our Safe and Thriving Communities Policy priority initiative. And then a lot of our funding also went to Healthy Communities, really focused on healthcare and health outcomes for our community. And then finally, Smart Communities and Sustainable Communities really focused on the technology. I think Amanda said earlier, the broadband is a really big focus for local governments. So we have a lot of tech advanced type projects that we are doing as well as sustainable communities, looking at new energy projects that are out there, including electric cars and things that really help align with our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. So that's kind of the work that we did. Like I said, it took a year and a half, countless hours, countless people who really took the time to think through what would help advance our communities and I think that because so many people were involved in that process, we came out with really good outcomes and results for the spending plan Cook County came up with.
Lisa Reijula: Great, thank you, Annette. And definitely timeline. You mentioned it took a year and a half the process and so timeline is something that we'll want to pick up and hear from all of you in terms of do you have enough time to spend this money? What are some of the considerations there? Thank you. Shamiah, if we can turn to you next, I mean your role, your office were brand new during the pandemic, so how did you approach this work?
Shamiah Kerney: That's right. I think one of the benefits that we had is that there was an election in December of 2020, so certainly many of the things that constituents were concerned about were teased out as a part of that process in the mayor's campaigning, speaking with the constituents, and also getting information from many of the transition team committees that were stood up. And so that was really a way to kind of leverage what people were concerned about. We also engaged in a proposal process as well for Baltimore City. That was from agencies, quasi government agencies as well as nonprofits. We received 534 proposals that well exceeded the $641 billion that Baltimore City received. So we also had a very similar process of going through those proposals, working with our evaluation team to decide which proposals would actually be elevated to the mayor for consideration by he and the senior team.
With regard to other engagement, we had a public feedback form on our website where people could choose from a dropdown of what things were interesting to them or also we had an other, so if it wasn't captured in one of the predetermined categories, residents could include information on other things of importance to them as well. We also did a town hall, which obviously is a little challenging in COVID. So we did a telephone town hall where we also streamed live on our social media platforms to make sure that we engage community and gave them opportunities to be able to ask questions about some of the decisions that have been made to date and also about future plans for ARPA funding. In addition to that, we also have...
Many of our agencies are engaging in their own level of community engagement around some of the projects that they're standing up and so we've been working with those agencies as well to do community meetings, whether they're hosting some of them publicly or doing a hybrid approach. We have some issues, specific engagement like for our health department having community health, our mobile clinics, also for our mayor's Office of Employment Development, working with our community-based organizations to leverage messaging around some of the education and job employment opportunities that are being funded through ARPA.
Also with our mayor's Office of Neighborhood Engagement, there are some community tours where literally our director walked around communities and talked with them about some of the engagement or some of the plans with ARPA funding. And so we really tried to have a real holistic approach to how we engage community. But I do think that our proposal process was probably the one place where I'd say we really had a lot of success. I don't think any of us expected to see 534 proposals, but that's what we got. But that was a good thing because it let us know what residents were really caring about and making sure that they gave us an opportunity to align the mayor's plans and the mayor's action plan and the pillars in that plan with the things that community said that they were interested in seeing be funded by ARPA.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you so much. Next question for Amanda. There are probably a lot of state and local folks on this call tuning in to learn from one another to hear what each of the panelists have worked on in their locality. Have you seen things that stand out to you in your research? Innovative strategies or uses of funding, things that you might want to call out as examples for folks to consider?
Amanda Kass: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm going to answer that directly but also answer kind another question that's on my mind. So I think one thing overall that's really exciting is these different engagement strategies, how local governments have engaged their residents about how to use the fiscal recovery fund money. What I'm really interested in is if cities and states use these engagement processes kind of going forward in their budget process. I think some places like... And I mentioned Cook County was already doing some budget engagement prior to the ARPA money. So some places are already engaging residents, but I think hopefully that's one outcome from the program is just kind of ways to engage residents more in budget processes. One thing I wanted to touch on, and this is going back to, I think Shamiah said this, about how it's not fair to compare spend rates across jurisdictions and highlighting the use of revenue replacement.
I think that this to me points to one of the kind of challenging challenges with the SLFRF program and spending transparency. So I think governments have to have a real kind of balancing act with wanting to provide really kind of granular data and show how they're using the money for innovative programs and policies with administrative burden. Of course, one of the big impacts of COVID was on the public sector and we saw kind of a significant decrease in the number of public employees. And so in many places we potentially have a smaller pool of public employees that are being asked to do more. Again, many jurisdictions have never had this kind of federal money, so I think for some places they're using revenue replacement because it's the least burdensome way for them to kind of do it.
And so I think that's one thing to me is being really mindful of this kind of balancing act. The other thing I think is for places that do have the capacity, what do you think is really interesting is these detailed kind of spending trackers that cities themselves are creating. So I think all the places in this panel have these that allow residents to really kind of track how their communities, how their governments are spending the money. And then the last thing I want to wanted to touch on is, so Annette mentioned how Cook County is using the aid to address cycles of poverty. I think this is kind of really an important aspect of the program is we're seeing again this policy or experimentation in knowledge transfer between cities. And so we're seeing investment in things like a guaranteed income using the ARPA money to pay off medical debt. So Cook County's doing that, the City of Toledo and partnership with Lucas County is also doing that.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you. If we could talk a little bit about the timeline. I think you have until the end of 2026 to fully expend SLFRF funds. So let's talk about that. Is that a realistic timeframe? What are some of the challenges there? You know, you all engage the community in getting input on how the money should be spent. How do you engage folks going forward? Shamiah, can I ask you to start us off?
Shamiah Kerney: Sure. I would say that is it enough time? I think that depends on the kind of projects that you are engaging in. So one thing that I wanted to share is our dashboard. It is very challenging to talk about commitments and what we're trying to do based on expenditure categories. The general public doesn't understand the expenditure categories that we're using to report to treasury, and so we had to think through how do we communicate with residents about how we're utilizing ARPA funds in a way that makes sense to them. So what we did was kind of roll up the expenditure categories until what I'm going to call kind of overarching topic areas that are a little bit more digestible for the general public to understand where these funds actually went to. And so we have housing, city infrastructure, public space and parks, just a variety of topic areas where we've rolled those expenditure categories up into these overarching areas.
If you click within those particular areas, what we'll show you is how much of the funding has been committed, how much has been spent, which organization. We try to provide that level of detail so that individuals understand where funding is going. Now to answer the question about do we have enough time? The answer is no. The honest answer is no. Because one of the things that SLFRF doesn't necessarily factor in is the bureaucratic processes that we have in city, right? Our procurement processes, our finance processes, all of those things are challenging in and of itself just with our general fund dollars. And so the adage of getting more money, more problems absolutely is correct. It doesn't mean that because we have more money that we're able to move it more quickly. The processes and procedures that we have in place that might already be bureaucratic and challenging are still that even with more money.
So when you layer time on top of that, absolutely it becomes a challenge. And so I understand some of other cities that may have made decisions to park money or move money to revenue replacement because it is easier, yes. And because when you are hearing from your constituents, whether it is internally, it's your council, it's your senior leadership, it is external stakeholders, it's the residents, it is delegation, it is whomever is involved in this. Everyone wants to make sure that we can spend the money within the timeframes, not necessarily factoring in again the bureaucratic processes that we have, and in addition to that, the complexity of some of the projects that we've opted to fund. So do we have enough time? No, but I do think that every one of us is very committed to doing as much as we can in the timeframes that we can. But I believe that all of us, if we're being honest with ourselves, would advocate for additional time to make sure that we're doing this right and that we're avoiding or mitigating the risk of waste, fraud and abuse.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you. Grace, Annette, any comment on timeline or things that the federal government could do in terms of the challenge of expending this money within the timeline?
Annette Guzman: Yeah, I do want to make a meaningful distinction, which is you have until 2026 to spend it, but you actually have until 2024 to obligate it. For the life of me, I don't think that there's a consensus on what obligation means and so there's a lot of work that we're still doing. As a government that guarantees funding on an annual basis, that's our annual appropriation, on some level is something obligated until the budget is passed. It's a question, right? And so we have now rolled this into our annual appropriation process. Now we've gotten past the kind of initial community engagement, initial funding allocations and so forth. Shamiah is absolutely right, the procurement process is the procurement process. No matter how much commitment you have and how aggressive you are, it takes time. And on top of that, we went the route of actually doing most of our programs in the format of subrecipient agreements.
And so you can imagine when you have... We have well over a hundred sub-recipients for our programs and they're not even all signed. So that has an impact on how quickly you're spending the money if you haven't gotten all of those pieces in a row and then you layer onto that, are you doing that through advances? Are you doing that through reimbursement? So if you're doing it through reimbursement, you're not spending until you get that invoice back from your subrecipient. So there's a lot packed into why the timeline is particularly aggressive given that as you heard all of us say, we really spent a lot of time with our communities and so that naturally pushed back the timeline for how we were going to spend the money by the deadline that was put forth by the Treasury.
Grace Kyung: I do want to add real quick to echo everything and Shamiah said I cannot not agree more on the points that they're raising. The other thing to raise as well is the subrecipient agreements and bringing in smaller providers that can do the work well because we know they do it in their communities, but then when we ask them to apply for our grants with the monitoring and compliance and the red flags, because we are government that we need to raise, a lot of folks don't apply because they don't have the staffing, they don't have the fiscal structures, they don't have potentially partnerships where larger institutions could sponsor them. You know, I could get into the weeds of all this and that would take an hour conversation and I will not. But one of the things that we are trying to do, because Mayor Jones is also newly elected, she started in April 2021, is looking at how we do our procurement process.
Are there ways we can streamline our RFP processes? And can we bring in technical assistance that eventually we will have staff that can bring in smaller subrecipients who may be able to do this work but just need a little bit more support to get there? And so all of this takes time, which goes into this timeline question of 2024 versus 2026 that limits the capacity of what government can do and what government feeds into as systemic barriers that cause inequitable outcomes. And not by the fault of any of us on this call or any other municipality that does that work, but it does raise real challenges in doing that work well while also being in compliance with what we need to accomplish.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Grace. We may take you all up on doing an extra hour on the Subrecipient issue because there is a lot there to unpack and we would all love to hear more from you and really learn there about challenges and opportunities to work on that. Joshua, I just wanted to see if you had anything on this particular question that you wanted to add.
Joshua Pine: Yeah, for sure. I certainly appreciate the responses from fellow panel. I think one piece of context I think sometimes often gets forgotten, I think when people hear that kind of, for cities in particular, $65.1 billion, assuming that cities are operating in a budget surplus. I think the research that NLC conducted in 2020 showed that there was a $90 billion revenue shortfall for cities across the country. So while 65.1 billion was a tremendous and unprecedented amount of federal aid to support cities, many cities, especially smaller communities in different cities across the country, are still operating with less revenue and increased expenditures compared to prior to the pandemic. So I think keeping that in mind, I think Amanda alluded to this, the challenges of having decreased staff while also having increased responsibilities to engage in this work. So I think looking from the outside, I think oftentimes the pandemic kind of recovery funds, both with ARPA and some of the broader things can be seen as either causing inflation or being kind of excess spending.
But I think really getting back to the core government services, cities and counties were unable to perform because of lost revenue. This is really kind of a critical amount getting there. I think that certainly plays into the timeline and capacity question of cities aren't just sitting on a lot of extra funds, they're really working hard both through revenue replacement to replenish staff and core government services. So I think that's a helpful piece of context that sometimes gets forgotten. Since I think the recovery was so streamlined because of ARPA, it's hard to think around what pre-ARPA times were and some of the challenges that cities had to face budgetarily before then.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Joshua. And pre-ARPA, what do you do beyond ARPA? Without the same level of funding, this is a one time, is it going to appear like there's a reduction in services or that you're doing fewer programs? And how are you thinking about that? How do you think you might handle that transition in terms of community engagement? How will you message to the community what ARPA was and what things might look like going forward after the money has been obligated and spent? Shamiah, could I start with you on that one?
Shamiah Kerney: Sure. The short answer is I don't know. I think that every jurisdiction that has ARPA funding will grapple with this, which is ARPA provided the unique opportunity to increase program levels and services in the way that we will not be able to sustain after the cessation of ARPA. Unless there is some miraculous revenue generation in the next couple of years, we will not be able to do that. And so messaging that to community is going to be very difficult, especially once people get used to something, whenever you decrease it in any way, it looks as though you are taking something back. And so we have a lot of internal conversations, certainly I do with our agency leadership and our senior leadership about thinking about sustainability. We are certainly having conversations now and doing some evaluation. We actually have university partners that we are working with to do evaluation on what might be worthwhile to continue after ARPA.
If so, we are sitting down with our budget counterparts and saying if we do find that there are programs and services that when they were expanded or increased actually got better outcomes, how do we sustain that financially beyond ARPA? We're having those conversations now, but do we have a plan? Not necessarily, but we are working towards one. But the reality is that we're not going to be able to continue to do everything at the same levels once ARPA ends. And so we really have to be strategic and very focused on making sure that anything that we do continue beyond ARPA is because we've done the data analysis and done all of the research to make sure that we are getting a good return on investment if we decide to sustain with general funding.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you. And Annette, how are you all thinking about this in Cook County?
Annette Guzman: Yeah, I mean, so we have created a sustainability model of the programs that we are prioritizing as the ones that we know should the data bear out we want to continue, Guaranteed Income being the largest and most high priority one. I think we set out at the very beginning knowing that some of these programs do not have and won't have a need beyond 2026. These were really just kind of short-term infusions of resources to meet an immediate need to help the recovery move quicker and progress faster than it would without it. Others we knew, as I said before, we keep calling them transformative initiatives. We really wanted to engage in a way that was groundbreaking, and so these are the ones that were really looking to figure out how do we sustain these going forward because they have the potential to really be game changers for our community.
And so we started the sustainability conversation earlier this year looking at what does it take five years, 10 years from now to keep doing this program? Luckily, Cook County from a financial standpoint has done really well over the last few years and we have a pretty robust fund balance. So part of what we did in our FY 23 budget, which was passed last month, was we started to assign millions of dollars of our fund balance into... We created an equity fund and that equity fund is going to sustain a lot of the programs that don't have an identified revenue source beyond 2026. We're also out there looking for and trying to determine new revenue sources to sustain these programs. But I think this is a challenge.
I think this is a challenge statement for our communities who are out there doing this work on the ground, seeing the impact that it's having to be able to stand together and say, "Look, this is how you change communities. This is how you move things forward. Let's go out and fund this because going forward, this turns around health outcomes in our communities. This generates business in our communities. This gets our kids into the careers and the education that they need to further their careers." So I just think this is why the data is so important. This is why local partnerships are so important. This is why regional partnerships are so important. And this is why I thought from the very beginning this was a groundbreaking decision from the federal government to not only fund it, but to say, "Hey, we're not putting a bunch of restrictions on you. Go forth and do what you think is best for your communities."
Lisa Reijula: To see if it drives the impact and the change that you want to see. Grace, could I ask about conversations about sustainability post-ARPA in St. Louis? How are you all thinking about it?
Grace Kyung: Yeah, similarly we're working on it as we go while we're trying to implement these programs that are getting appropriated how we design the programs, how we're reaching as much folks as we can that were impacted by COVID, knowing that we can't also serve everyone with every program. Each program is always different in eligibility, but also wanted to echo what Annette shared. In US Treasury and the restrictions that they gave us and how they asked us to define things, it's nice that there's a lot of flexibility because as room as government where we know we have our procurement process and different limitations, the most flexibility I feel like when I get to play with SLFRF funds and how we design the programs is just nice and I just wanted to echo that. But one of the things we're looking at for sustainability as we're building the plane as we're flying it, is that one of the biggest initiatives is our economic justice action plan that I mentioned earlier.
We have three strong pillars there around equitable and inclusive development, neighbor transformation and economic empowerment. Those that aren't familiar with St. Louis, we have a very just invested area like many urban cities of North St. Louis. And so the mayor, as she would say is that we can't expect to see St. Louis succeed and win if half the city is expected to fail. So it's really looking at how we make those investments in targeted ways in areas that we can stimulate growth and also really tackle poverty and how we tie in our community violence intervention programs or where we build affordable housing, where we look at building stabilization and all those ideas. So going back to economic justice action plan, the mayor committed 150 million of the ARPA funds towards that in a way to bring in private sector folks, philanthropic folks to the conversation of what the city's commitment is and what we are asking other folks to commit to these programs so that they can continue to grow.
And it isn't a one time opportunity in that we're seeing investment into St. Louis as a whole. So our economic justice framework is really helping us in how we tailor these conversations and measuring the impact of ARPA while working on things. I always find it funny that we got these funding because COVID-19 health crisis and we don't talk as much about the impact it's having on the health department and the work because we're always so focused on the recovery of what COVID-19 caused in other ways, but just wanting to give kudos to our health department and investing in the work that they've been doing and not only responding to the triple endemic pandemic, whatever you want to call it, that we're experiencing right now, but the increase in substance use and other things that are impacting their work on a daily basis.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Grace. Seeing that we have a few minutes left, I'm wondering if we can close with kind of a quick fire or a round of questions around the horn in terms of either what is your biggest lessons learned that you'd like to impart, especially to fellow leaders from cities, counties, and states. What's your biggest takeaway from this experience? Or what is your recommendation? Should we run a program like this again in the future? What is your biggest recommendation for how we could improve it? I know big question with two minutes left, but really would love to hear from you all and Amanda, we started with you, I wonder if we could start with you on this one.
Amanda Kass: Sure, happy to do that and piggyback on other comments. And I want to say too, how awesome it is to be on this panel with just fantastic and brilliant people. I've learned a lot and gotten a lot of the conversation. I think one lesson or one thought I have is again, spending decisions aren't just technocratic, they're political. So one lesson or outcome I could see is using the SLFRF program and what cities did to build political constituency for either more federal funding to local governments as a permanent revenue source because again, and Josh touched on this, there was pre-pandemic needs, many places never recovered from the last financial crisis, the 2008 financial crisis. So if we really want to build back better, maybe that's kind of rethinking fiscal federalism between federal government and local governments. Also kind of using the lessons from guaranteed income programs to push to make that a federal program. If we really truly want to have guaranteed income in the United States, maybe that should be a federal program and not kind of left for cities to implement on their own.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you. Shamiah, how about you?
Shamiah Kerney: Number one, I agree with everything that Amanda just said, but I also want to say that I think the opportunity to leverage what other cities are doing and getting lessons learned around innovation and other programs that they're doing, I'm looking for more opportunities in terms of what we can do better is looking for more opportunities for collaboration and sharing. I think the NLCs, the results of America of the world, the PRACs of the world have done some of that. But I think this is not like CDBG where there's a history of information and knowledge and things like that. This is a brand-new program and so those of us that are administering this program in our cities and states and counties would welcome the opportunity to talk more about what we're doing and how we're doing it and sharing some of those lessons learned and challenges to make sure that we're all effectively and efficiently monitoring this program. I agree with the flexibility, I think that's very useful, and then it's given us an opportunity to think more broadly about what we can do to create better spaces of equity within our cities. And so would echo the opportunity if there is other funding opportunities like this, that that flexibility and the opportunity to explicitly state that we are focusing on equity continue.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you. Grace, how about you?
Grace Kyung: I agree with... I wanted to give a plus three because in case folks can't see Joshua also gave a plus one to Amanda and what Amanda was sharing as well. I think that there are areas where I would love to see the federal government step in and go, "These are really successful programs that both different cities were able to pilot test, let's keep them going so these cities can then do more in different areas." But I know that this may not be the role for the federal government as much, but there is a lot of monitoring and compliance in Treasury cutting their team and offering that sort of technical assistance was disappointing to see. So if there was additional aim that came in that went towards administrative services, because that would help us as municipalities a lot as we continue to do the data and evaluation, administering the funds, doing the compliance reporting and the auditing that will come after as well.
So that would be very helpful to see more funding given to areas that received SLFRF funds. Again, I'll go back to an ask I made earlier. There is a lot of federal state funding available and if there were targeted ways that we could all work together across the different sectors in braiding fundings together so SLFRFs funds themselves aren't just a one-time offer in thinking about how we tie that together and having active partnerships to really figure that out, that would help as well. So that we as governments didn't have to try to navigate all these things at the same time knowing that we might be missing a critical grant opportunity that we just may not come across our desk in time to prepare for it. And also being prepared so our different smaller organizations can be a part of designing what that looks like.
Lisa Reijula: Thank you, Grace. Annette, biggest lesson learned or a recommendations for future?
Annette Guzman: Yeah, I think what this especially ARPA did was really pushed I think communities and various levels of government to actually start talking to each other. Whether it was because we don't know what the term obligation means or we're trying to figure out how to navigate and interpret the various different guidances that come out for the various funding sources. But I think it also brought these various levels of government together because there were opportunities for us to go after more funding. ARPA is this huge umbrella act and there's all these different fundings, not just the SLFRF under Treasury. And sometimes it's better, it's beneficial for our regions if we team up with each other and we're going after this because it helps our constituents to get more and bring more funding and more resources into our community.
It's not to say that governments didn't talk before, but I think that this, again, in so many ways really pushed us to not only go out and talk to our communities in different ways, but to talk to our constituents on the state level, on the city and other local level to really say, "Okay, there's this really interesting opportunity. We don't know very much about it. We are a bigger unit of government than you are, but we know that's something you need to really address your community, how about we team up go after this together? We'll bring in some nonprofits, we'll bring in some universities to help us bolster the argument of why this is needed." And I think that that's beautiful to see that happening because for so long we were in our isolated communities during the pandemic really literally away from each other, unable to interact on the level that we are right now.
I mean, the fact that we're on Zoom before the pandemic, how many of you guys did virtual calls? Probably not ever. Right? The way that we can interact with each other now, and this has all been brought about because of, like I said, this historic kind of funding that has really gone directly to local governments. I do want to echo the comment that was made earlier about funding local governments directly. When everything goes to the state from the federal government, I think there's a lot of missed opportunities to have really meaningful and impactful change because those local governments are really the ones on the grounds working day in and day out with community organizations with constituents who are advocating for resources and change. And so I do think that this has really shown at... I hope it's shown the federal government the wisdom in working directly with local jurisdictions.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Annette. And Joshua, any closing thoughts from you to take us home?
Joshua Pine: I'll keep this very brief since I think all my fellow panelists have shared all the great insights there. I think certainly echoing the partnership piece I think is one recommendation and insight that's been inspiring to see both cities and counties working together, a lot of smaller city communities working together. And from a recommendation perspective, I think a shameless plug for the National League of Cities or other organizations to get involved with National Association of Counties, other groups that if you're not already plugged in with either cities geographically next to you that are working on these issues, connecting with cities of similar size, similar challenges, the National League of Cities, other organizations, PRAC and others are here to support. So certainly don't feel like you're in this alone. Certainly there's a great community of other local leaders who are tackling this issue, so happy to support however we can, and very grateful to hear all the insights from fellow local leaders on this panel.
Lisa Reijula: Thanks, Joshua. As a PRAC, we talk a lot about how crisis kind of breeds collaboration and now the task is how to keep that going and how to sustain it. I want to say thank you to our amazing panelists for this really insightful conversation today. You all are doing great work and we thank you for lending your time and your expertise to talk with all of us today. We'll follow up with links and resources from each of the panelists and share the recording as well. And on behalf of the PRAC, thank you to the National League of Cities for co-hosting and thank you all for attending and participating. We hope to see you all soon. Thank you.