By Ben Eikey and Dakota Thomas
The American Rescue Plan Act includes $350 billion in new funding for state, local, territorial and tribal governments through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF). Utilizing this large influx of funds to maximize economic recovery presents both opportunities and challenges for states. Recognizing the desire of policymakers to develop and share best practices, the Council of State Governments conducted an extensive 50 state scan of the allocation of ARPA funds, focused on SLFRF. In November 2021, CSG analysts also compiled state ARPA online resources which were shared in this previous CSG blog. These state websites are updated using federally required state government reports on pandemic-related spending. This transparency enables more public participation in strengthening oversight to ensure prudent use of public resources.
In a 2019 report on legislative oversight from the Levin Center (a national center with expertise on legislative oversight), legislatures in Alaska, California, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania were determined to be particularly effective in using the budget/appropriations process to conduct oversight of spending. In partnership with the Levin Center, CSG analyzed ARPA reporting websites in these 11 states to assess oversight of the allocation of these federal funds. This article highlights promising state approaches to publishing ARPA spending data online.
Among these states prioritizing budget/appropriations oversight, Minnesota has gone beyond U.S. Department of the Treasury requirements by posting detailed information on a public website about its use of pandemic relief funds. Updated daily, Minnesota’s tracker promises “checkbook” transparency of all state government spending, including ARPA funds. This approach allows the public and the media to augment oversight efforts by accessing granular information specifying how critically important funds are being used. Public and media access to this information puts more eyes on program spending enabling greater evaluation of efficiency and impact. This in turn can trigger legislative oversight investigations, hearings and reform. To make this external oversight function easily manageable, Minnesota offers a five-minute video on their website explaining how to navigate their system.
As covered in the 2019 report, the approaches these 11 states take to appropriations oversight highlight various practices in funding transparency. A review of their ARPA websites reveals several pathways for spending itemization as states utilize ARPA funds.
- Maryland’s website includes detail on all federal funds including ARPA. Approved funds are broken down by agency name or unit name. Maryland could detail how much of approved funds have been spent in the future using this navigable webpage.
- Nevada’s public spending spreadsheet shows line-item grant recipients. Nevada may continue to build this resource with details on how grants will be spent in the future and a link to their state government website for more information on the programs receiving grants.
- North Carolina’s website offers information for ARPA funding recipients; infographics detailing the rollout of ARPA funds on topics like drinking water projects and broadband infrastructure; and slides presented to state agencies on navigating ARPA spending. They are set up to share spending details on topics of consistent interest.
Other states have the opportunity to add more spending detail to make the use of ARPA funding more transparent. CSG and the Levin Center will continue monitoring ARPA spending websites to highlight various transparency approaches.
This article was written in collaboration with the Levin Center at Wayne State Law School.
Ben Eikey is the Manager of State Training and Communications for the Levin Center at Wayne State Law School. His specializes in legislative oversight and has traveled across the United States to conduct oversight workshops and panel discussions in state legislatures and with partner organizations like The Council of State Governments.
Dakota Thomas is a Senior Research Analyst at The Council of State Governments. He helps manage the CSG policy research portfolio, including evidence-based policymaking and fiscal policy analysis. Dakota provides technical assistance to CSG members through the collection and analysis of data and work with academic partners.