ARPA final rule - The "B-sides collection": Parks and recreation facility improvements
Continuing our series of articles reviewing the lesser publicized aspects of the American Rescue Plan Act guidance (hence, the “B-sides” moniker), here we address the U.S. Treasury’s issued guidance as it relates to spending federal stimulus money to support projects aimed at improving parks and other recreational areas.
The four buckets of eligible use
Under the final rule, ARPA allows four buckets of eligible use, the first of which is relevant here: “(A) To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; (B) To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers; (C) For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and (D) To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.” [i]
Where do improvements to parks and recreational facilities fit in?
The final rule includes within its enumerated eligible uses (considered appropriate responses to the pandemic’s negative economic impacts under the 1st bucket above) “investments in communities… such as parks [and] recreation facilities” for disproportionately impacted households and populations.[ii] The admittedly tenuous connection between a global pandemic and public recreation assets is made by Treasury when it notes, “[p]arks, recreation facilities, and sidewalks can promote healthier living environments by allowing for safe and socially distanced recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.” [iii] The Treasury goes on, clarifying that such investments in disproportionately impacted communities can be for fixed assets, like “parks, green spaces, recreational facilities, sidewalks, [and] pedestrian safety features [such as] crosswalks.” [iv]
Take care to not simply pay for all outdoor recreation assets, across the board, with ARPA funds. Rather, such public recreation assets must be located within disproportionately impacted communities. These are communities and populations “that experienced a disproportionate, or meaningfully more severe, impact from the pandemic,” and include those located within quality census tracts and those considered to be low-income households.[v] Local governments may also use categorical eligibility to define these communities, including those that otherwise qualify for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), free and reduced lunch, supplemental security income (SSI), Section 8 vouchers, and low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP), among others.[vi]
So, in certain instances, ARPA provides state and local government recipients the opportunity to perk up their parks and recreational areas. Specifically, ARPA funds may be used for purposes of improving, renovating, and/or installing trails, fencing, walls, utilities, picnic shelters, maintenance sheds, bridges, bike racks, light poles and signage. This is certainly not an exhaustive list as ARPA allows for additional possibilities not explicitly mentioned within the final rule and guidance.
With our continuing “B-Sides Collection” series, we seek to highlight some of the eligible uses that are not necessarily evident (i.e. improvements to parks and recreational areas, affordable housing development, seeding revolving loan funds, funding capital projects, and demolition and capital expenses related to vacant and abandoned buildings, etc.) on the face of the ARPA’s four “buckets” of eligible use.
This information is shared as we see creative uses of ARPA funds in our practice. It may do a local government some good to think about its ARPA funds beyond mere water and sewer infrastructure improvements. Recipients may take advantage of possibilities to deploy their ARPA allocation to legacy projects that will far outlast the pain of the pandemic.
[i] see U.S. Treasury, Final Rule, Supplementary Information, at pages 4-5
[ii] 31 CFR 35.6(b)(3)(ii)(A)(11)(iii)
[iii] see U.S. Treasury, Final Rule, Supplementary Information, at page 131
[iv] Id. at page 132
[v] see U.S. Treasury, Final Rule, Supplementary Information, at page 38
[vi] Id. at page 41
This is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship.Download PDF