NCLM President Karen Alexander Writes Letter to N.C. Cities and Towns, Urges Patience With ARP Funds
"Undoubtedly and understandably, the impulse is to spend this money on immediate needs and move quickly to make decisions. Our message, however, is the opposite. We urge patience and prudence."
In regards to American Rescue Plan funds, NCLM President Karen Alexander urged a wait-and-see approach of North Carolina local leaders in a letter sent June 24. That letter can be read in full below.
As the cities and towns of North Carolina, the potential impact of the American Rescue Plan is certainly not lost on you. Still, it bears repeating: this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Never before has federal funding—neither in its quantity nor its directness—been provided to our communities like it will be over the next few weeks. This support will not only help us recover from the devastation of the pandemic, but also has the capacity to allow us to thrive long into the future.
Undoubtedly and understandably, the impulse is to spend this money on immediate needs and move quickly to make decisions. Our message, however, is the opposite. We urge patience and prudence.
As the old saying goes: “hurry up and wait.”
Hurry to get your city or town’s priorities in order. Wait to decide how to spend.
Ask, what does our community truly need? What is the absolute most effective way this money can be allocated? It is critical to have these questions answered and solidified because just as this funding offers a generational opportunity to your municipality, so too does it offer an opportunity to the nonprofits, consultants and private businesses of your community. Each one of you is certain to receive pitches from numerous organizations, many of them advocating for great causes. The question is, do those causes align with the priorities set forth by your local leaders?
Hurry to highlight areas of need. Wait to see if those areas will receive additional assistance.
In particular, it is important to wait for the North Carolina General Assembly to appropriate their own share of ARP funds. More than $5.7 billion will be given to the state, and eligible expenses include targets such small businesses and broadband. To get the most out of this one-time money for your community, it may not be the best practice to duplicate spending efforts.
Additionally, the League strongly recommends that our members explore opportunities to partner with neighboring cities and towns, counties and other governmental units. Many of these partnerships are already taking shape across our state, and they offer great promise to our communities and to extending the effectiveness of each dollar received.
Hurry to brainstorm potential projects. Wait for much-needed guidance.
Lastly, and on this point especially, we ask for a wait-and-see approach. League experts have reviewed every U.S. Treasury document available, received and answered hundreds of questions regarding eligible expenses, and worked closely with state and federal officials. For North Carolina’s cities and towns, no entity is more versed on the American Rescue Plan—specifically, on what is allowed and what reporting is required—than the League. Thus, despite what you may be hearing from other businesses and organizations around state, we can confidently note that more guidance is needed.
Many questions cannot yet be answered. Again, we urge patience as you consider ARP compliance and requirements.
This message of patience—of “hurry up and wait”—is being practiced by League staff as well. Though we continuously update our ARP hub, answer questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and conduct informational and Q&A webinars, we are also carefully and methodically putting together an ARP service line for you, our members. As we hear your needs, we are designing services to meet them.
The funds will be received within weeks. Spending deadlines are not for years. And the impact of our decisions will last for decades. We are excited to create better cities and towns, and thus, a better North Carolina. With patience, we will help you get there.
Karen Alexander, NCLM President